Rental property scammers taking Houston area by storm

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Renters beware, the Houston area is experiencing the perfect storm for rental property scammers.

Renting a home is becoming very expensive in our area, so when someone sees a bargain they move quickly. It's that's why scammers are having a field day, copying real ads and scamming real victims.

It's not unusual to find a rental home will cost you $1,700 a month, but one listing agent recently heard from a prospective renter who thought the price on a Spring home was much lower.

"I received an email last Thursday and I saw this listing on Trulia and its for $800 but then I see it for $1,700. So something sounds real fishy to me, what's going on? Am I getting scammed?" said Realtor Kim Angle.

Angle says that perspective renter had wired $600 to reserve the home. Unfortunately, that money did not go to the home's real owner.

"So I responded to the individual and said, yes, you are being scammed," said Angle.

Angle says apparently someone spoofed the real ad for the home and then listed it on the website

That website has since pulled the ad but only after at least one person lost hundreds of dollars.

Angle says that spoof ad did have some red flags.

"The contact information was, please send me your email -- no phone number, nothing like that," said Angle.

Angle says another way to keep from falling for the rental scam, do a quick web search of the property address.

"Because what it will do is list all the different websites the house is located on, and if you see there are several sites where the house says $1,700 versus $800, there's a problem," said Angle.

Another thing to look out for is if someone asking for a down payment using a wire transfer.

"If you wire money, that is usually untraceable so they want to hide this transaction," said Leah Napoliello with the Houston BBB.

Another thing to look for is documentation. To rent a home you have to fill out an application, employment history and credit check.

If those things are not being done, be suspicious. If you are not sure, call a Realtor.
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