Ohio AG warns of summer rental scams

Staff Report

Beware home rental scams this summer, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is telling residents due to complaints to his office.

In a typical rental scam, a con artist posts an ad online offering a house or apartment for rent. When interested parties respond, the con artist tells them to send a deposit. Later, the consumers discover that the rental ad was phony and the con artist had no affiliation with the property. Reported losses have ranged from $250 to $5,000.

“Scam artists will say, ‘You send us the money, and we’ll send you the keys,’ but that’s a lie,” said DeWine. “The truth is these con artists are offering properties they don’t own and hoping people will take the bait. We encourage people to be very careful. If someone’s asking you to wire a deposit for a property you’ve never seen in person, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.”

To make the scams seem believable, con artists often steal photos and property information from legitimate real estate listings then repost the information as rental property ads on Craigslist or other sites. The advertised rent is often low, and con artists generally tell people to wire a few hundred dollars to secure the rental or to prevent others from viewing the property.

Signs of the scam include requests for payment via wire transfer, money order, prepaid card, or gift card; ads offering below-market rates on houses or apartments; rental ads offering properties that are listed for sale on other websites; landlords who offer to rent to you immediately without checking your credit; requests for you to wire money before you’ve seen the property; landlords who claim they’re out of the country for business or missionary work.

Be skeptical of ads that seem to good to be true. Check the county auditor’s website to determine who owns the property. Copy and paste an image from an online listing into a search engine to determine if it has appeared elsewhere online.

To learn more about scams or report potential scams, visit www.ohioprotects.org or call 800-282-0515.

Staff Report