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Connecticut Rental Scams

By Elizabeth Elstien

Two rental scams are especially prevalent in Connecticut. Both involve online Craigslist ads (or ads on other non-MLS sites that are loosely supervised) for rental homes, but one scam uses existing rentals and another picks homes on the market for sale. The Craigslist ads, typically written in poor English, post accurate information about the property and its amenities and may have real interior and exterior photos of the home taken from actual online listings. These bogus ads post low rents that include all utilities to pull unsuspecting renters into the scammers web of deceit.

The web-building continues with the ads providing information on why the owner is out of town - often for missionary/church work in Africa or to take care of a loved one -- and just how honest she/he is, along with how the owner expects the prospective tenant to take good care of the property while the owner is away. The catch is that the "owner" has the keys and requests upfront security deposit and rent be wire transferred before the keys are sent. Correspondence is usually only by email, with the "owner" usually struggling with English once more.

Prospective tenants who get snagged in this fraudulent web never receive keys and have lost hard-earned money set aside to move. A few reported that keys were received, but some other family was living in the home with no idea of the rental fraud. Plus, if personal information was provided on a lease application, identity theft may also be a possibility.

Renters need to be aware, careful and cautious. Ensure this fraud is not perpetrated against you by following these guidelines from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau on avoiding phony rental listings:

  1. Avoid deals too good to be true. Check comparable listings for pricing and walk away if the price is too low.
  2. Do not believe a landlord who states she/he is temporarily located elsewhere.
  3. Stay away from ads in poorly written English, as most are written by overseas scammers who don't understand the nuances of the English language.
  4. Refuse to wire money for deposit and rent through wire transfer services such as Western Union, MoneyGram, or Green Dot MoneyPak card. Money sent in these ways is extremely hard to trace and there is little chance of getting it back.
  5. Check that the home or apartment is actually for rent and inspect it -- inside and outside -- with the landlord before signing a lease or handing over money.
  6. Do a search on the local town assessor site to pull up the name of the property's actual landlord. If other ads are found that differ in landlord name or rental price, that's a sure sign that something is amiss.
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