July 13, 2018
20th Judicial District
District Attorney Michael Dougherty
Community Protection Division: 303-441-3700
Consumer Alert from District Attorney Michael Dougherty
(Boulder County, Colo.) -- District Attorney Michael Dougherty advises consumers
looking for rental housing or vacation rentals in Boulder County to use caution
when considering rentals offered through marketplace websites such as
craigslist.org. The Community Protection
Division of the DA’s office has received a number of reports from those looking
for rental housing and vacation rentals in Boulder County of inaccurate or fake
rental listings posted on marketplace websites.
How do the scams
Some scammers hijack authentic rentals from property owners,
real estate agents, or even vacation rental websites like vrbo.com. They post photos and addresses of those rental
properties, and may alter pertinent
details about the rental, such as offering an authentic short-term vacation rental
as a long-term rental, or may simply change the email address or other contact
information of the real listing. They then
place the modified ad on a marketplace website such as craigslist. When a potential renter contacts the imposter,
the imposter writes back requesting money or personal information, ranging from
a driver’s license, social security number, credit card, or even bank account information
or a wire transfer.
Sometimes scammers attempt to have a prospective renter send
money or authorize payment for the lease or a deposit, claiming they can rent
it, but that it isn’t available to show right now. Scammers will use excuses like saying the
“owner” is out of town. Because the deal
is so good, or because the prospective renter is so desperate to rent the
property, the renter agrees to send or authorize funds.
Other schemes involve made-up listings for places that
aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and scammers try to lure prospective renters in
with the promise of low rent, a month or more free, or great amenities. The goal of these "too-good-to-be-true" deals is to get the prospective renter’s
money before the renter finds out that the listing is fake.
Being savvy when in search of a rental is well worth the
effort. Here are some tips to avoid
being scammed on a rental listing:
Don’t Share Information
Before Verifying a Listing. NEVER rent sight unseen, give
out personal, financial information, agree to a credit check, or send money
before meeting a verified landlord or property agent in person at the property.
Don’t Pay for a
Credit Report. Some scammers
post ads for properties that don’t exist or that belong to other people, then want to
charge for a credit report. The Federal
Trade Commission got a court order against one credit monitoring service last
year for this credit report scam. Get a
truly free credit report from annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
Don’t Pay Up Front. It’s NEVER
a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person, or for a
rental you haven’t seen. If you can’t
visit the property yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s
for rent, and that it is what was advertised.
In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and
listing. If you find the same ad listed
under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
Don’t Wire Money. There is NEVER
a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first
month’s rent, or vacation rental fee, even when you are sent a contract
first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash – once you send it, you
have no way to get it back.
Don’t Do Business
with Anyone who is “Unavailable.”
Don’t fall for a plan to “get keys into your hands,” or other vague
promises of ways to get you access to the rental after you pay money up front. Don’t send money overseas. Deal
locally and face-to-face. If you
can’t meet in person, see the rental, or sign a lease before you pay, keep
Scams. If you suspect that a
rental listing might be a scam, report it to local law enforcement, the website
where the ad was posted, and the Community Protection Division at (303)