MAIZE, Kan. (KSNW) — The Maize Police Department (MPD) is urging those looking to rent to use caution to ensure they’re not getting scammed.
Recently, the MPD took a report of a property listing on a real estate website that turned out to be a scam and not a property for rent. Police warn renters to be extra cautious when looking for properties over the internet.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says rental scammers often hijack a real rental or real estate listing, including the photos. They then change the email address or other contact information and place their scam ad on another website.
It may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In some cases, the scammers have hijacked the email account of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.
In other cases, they may create a listing for a place that doesn’t exist but offer low rent and good amenities to try to fool you.
One of the surest signs of a scam is they ask you to wire money. Wiring money is the same as cash, and once it is sent, you won’t be able to get it back. If they ask you to wire money for a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee, it’s a scam, even if they have sent you a contract in advance.
Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, especially for an apartment or home you have never seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself to investigate to see if it is as advertised, ask someone you trust to confirm it for you.
Aside from setting up an in-person meeting, do a web search for the owner and the listing. You can also do a reverse image search on the photo or photos in the ad. If they show up on other websites under other listings, it’s a scam.
A big red flag is if they say they are out of the country. If you can’t see them in person, see the property in advance, or sign a lease before you pay, just keep looking.
Reputable vacation rental websites will have a protected credit card system to process payments and will not ask for you to wire money or use prepaid cards to pay.
If you come across a rental scam, contact your local law enforcement and report it to the FTC. You can also contact the website where you found the scam to report it as well.
To learn more about rental listing scams from the FTC, click here.