West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned consumers about a rental property scam that is circulating in West Virginia.
Here’s how the the scam works: fake rental advertisements are posted on websites like Craigslist and other classified sites. When potential renters contact the supposed landlords, they are provided information about properties that might not exist, are not available or are owned by someone else. The landlords then often ask for rent up front with a promise that keys or a lease will be mailed upon receipt of payment.
“Scammers find homes on real estate sites that are for sale or rent and appear vacant, and then use that information to place fake rental ads,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “People should be very cautious when searching online for a place to rent and be sure they are communicating with the actual homeowner. It is important to verify that the rental property is legitimate before sending money.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division said they have received multiple complaints over the last couple of months. Morrisey said he urges people to be cautious when they want to rent a house. He said scammers can steal time and money, and even put people in a dangerous situation.
Here are some things to look out for:
• The price seems too good to be true; it doesn’t fit with market rates for similar, surrounding properties.
• High upfront costs, such as security deposits and other fees.
• Excuses for why a rental unit can’t be shown to prospective tenants, such as “The owner lives out of town” or “The landlord is traveling.”
• Requests for payment before you see the apartment or receive keys.
• No professional online presence or leasing office location.
• Listings and e-mail communication with multiple grammatical mistakes or stilted/broken English.
• Images of the rental unit are only generic interior shots and descriptions are not city-specific.
If you have been involved in a rental scam, or believe you have been a victim of a different scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808. To file a report online, go to www.wvago.gov.