A Clayton resident was scammed after responding to an online home rental ad. The victim told police he lost several thousand dollars in the process.
The 38 year-old man responded to an ad for a home for rent on Averasboro Drive in the Clayton city limits. Police Chief Greg Tart said the victim completed a rental contract and paid $5,025 through a cash app for the first and last month’s rent, security deposit, and pet deposit. All the communication was done electronically.
The victim was given a code by the alleged property owner to gain access to the home.
Chief Tart said when victim moved in he noticed signs at the property from American Homes for Rent warning about potential rental fraud. When the victim contacted the company to ask about rental fraud, he was told that he had been scammed and had not legitimately rented the home.
Police said this is the latest of several rental scams they have investigated this year. The perpetrators post advertisements on Facebook, Craigslist, and other social media sites advertising property for rent.
According to Clayton Police, these individuals will take legitimate advertisements and change the contact information on the ads and set up fake accounts on apps that allow them to obtain access codes from rental agencies that actually have the property for rent. They will then give the codes to the victims that will gain entry to the property. They instruct the victims to send money through specified cash apps such as PayPal, Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App as well as gift cards in order to collect money or rental fees. The victims will send rental deposits and fees through the cash app to a person they believe is the owner of the property.
Many of these scammers will ask for money before any kind of lease or rental agreement is signed. The renters will subsequently show up to the property to move in only to learn that someone else is already legitimately living in the home or in some cases the property doesn’t exist.
Police offer these suggestions to avoid being scammed:
- Never send money through a cash app to a person or business that you don’t know the true identity of.
- Never wire money as a rental deposit or payment for any kind of rental fees. If the person is asking you to wire money, more than likely they are trying to scam you.
- Never use prepaid credit cards as payment for rental deposits or fees.
- Visit the property you are looking to rent in person and verify that it is vacant and actually for rent. If someone is trying to rush you to pay money by claiming they have other people interested in the same property, they may be trying to scam you.
- Look for signage representing the legitimate rental agency or legitimate owner of the property and talk with them to verify that it is for rent.
- Meet the person or the representative of the rental agency or owner in person to tour the property.
- Never complete a rental agreement or lease over the phone or online. Do not pay any money before a legitimate lease or rental agreement is signed.