WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) It's a scam that isn't new, but it's more widespread than many may realize. It involves rental properties and false ads placed to steal your money and personal information.
In late November, FactFinder 12 reported on the home renter's scam, sharing the story of a Hutchinson woman who recognized the scam before she lost money.
Rental scams don't just involve homes, but vacation rentals as well. The scams have become so widespread the the Better Business Bureau finds nearly half of online rental shoppers have come across a fake ad.
Robert Miller owns and rents out a number of properties to make some extra income. While doing some homework on one of the homes, he met a woman who stopped by to take a look at the house she'd found online.
"And she said, 'I can't imagine you're renting this for $400.' I'm like, 'no,' and that was the clue that something wasn't right," Miller says.
Miller wasn't renting the home for $400, but a scammer had taken his online ad and made it their own.
The information, the pictures, everything matched Miller's ad, except for the contact information. When contacted, the scammer comes up with an excuse for why they can't show the home.
"They tell you that they can't show you the home because they're moving," says Better Business Bureau State Director Denise Groene.
Scammers may indicate they're leaving on a mission trip as a lot profess Christianity, even claiming to be a priest moving on or advertising themselves as a minister of a church. Using a legitimate property hey offer a decent home for rent at a modest price. They'll say they just need someone to take good care of the property.
The good news, the BBB reports, is that about 85 percent of people targeted in home rental scams don't fall for them. But when they do, the damage can be costly with the average lost per victim coming out to nearly $1,000.
For homeowners listing a home for rent, the BBB suggests watermarking pictures used in the ad with your actual contact number.
For renters, Miller suggests asking questions about the house or neighborhood that don't come from the ad to make sure the person you're talking to actually knows the answers.
You can find more information on rental scams and what to look out for so you don't fall for it in the Better Business Bureau's newly-released study.