HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- It's a three bedroom, 2 bath house for rent in a nice neighborhood for $600 a month, utilities included. Sound too good to be true? Probably because it is. A WHNT News 19 viewer contacted us about a rental home listing that wasn't real. WHNT News 19 is taking action along with the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama to make sure you and your pocketbook are safe.
"We have had people report going to a house and it's not even on the market, someone's living in the house," said Michele Mason, president of the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama. Mason said the BBB is getting a lot of calls about rental scams recently.
"What happens with the rental property scam is someone captures a picture of a house usually that is for rent or sale but sometimes its not even available for rent or sale." The scam artists are going on local real estate sites, picking properties that look ideal, and posting pictures of those homes on popular sites like Craigslist.
Their target is someone looking for a good deal. "Usually the price sounds really great and it's drawing a lot of people in, and then once you start inquiring about it you find that they want you to make payment upfront, site unseen, to someone and they usually have a story that tries to make it sound plausible why they'd be some where else."
The scammers may ask you to load money on a prepaid credit card or wire funds for rent. They might even ask for a check and hope they can cash it before you catch on.
"This is just designed to attract someone whose looking for buying or renting a home and can be drawn into making payment before they visit the place," said Mason.
Unfortunately, it's hard to track down the scam artists.
"They're probably not going to get caught until someone reports the scam and because these are on the internet, they can disappear just as quickly as the ad appears," she said.
The BBB recommends using a real estate agent if you're looking for a home in another city and can't view it in person. If you notice a housing scam, report it to the host site. Remember, never wire money or give your personal information to someone you haven't met before.