banner
House & Home

Scam alert: Fake listings cost Clayton renters thousands

Posted July 15, 2020 10:20 a.m. EDT
Updated July 16, 2020 12:04 p.m. EDT

— Clayton police are investigating eight rental scams that have cost victims up to $2,700.

According to the Town of Clayton, at least eight scammers have recently advertised rental properties they did not own and stolen money from the renters they tricked.

The rental scam is common but appears to be happening more frequently and mainly to renters in their 20s and 30s, officials said.

The average person in Clayton has lost $1,500 due to such scams, with one victim losing $2,700. The lowest amount scammed was $400.

How it works

Usually, a scammer will copy photos and property information off a real listing then repost it. If someone shows interest, the scammers will tell victims they have received multiple offers and convince them to make a quick deposit by wiring money or sending gift cards.

According to victims, several scammers have attempted to rent out condominiums in Clayton's Riverwood community.

Most of the scams have been listed on Craigslist, and the scammers all had foreign accents when victims talked to them over the phone.

Call the Clayton Police Department at 919-553-4611 if you suspect a rental listing is fake or you believe you may have been scammed.

Protest yourself

According to Clayton police, renters should be wary of the following:

  • The advertised price is much lower than that of similar properties.
  • Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors or overuse of capital letters.
  • The ad uses uncommon spellings of words, like "favour" instead of "favor."
  • You are told you can only work with an agent because the agent says that the owner is too busy, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable to handle the rental.
  • The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property.
  • The owner or agent isn't able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it.
  • The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics, urging you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property.

It's a good idea to learn the basics of how rental listing scams work, get the terms of your rental in writing, including fees, rent, and maintenance, and get a copy of the lease signed by both you and the property owner/manager.

Be sure to search properties and visit real estate websites to ensure the listing isn't a duplicate.

Don't pay a security deposit or fee unless you've signed a lease, and never wire money as a deposit or payment.

"Wiring money is the same as giving cash; you can't get a refund, even if you find out the offer was a fraud," officials said. "Ask to use a credit card – typically they will refuse and that should cause you suspicion that this is a scam."

Read more stories of fraud from 5 On Your Side.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.