Scammers preying on would-be home renters, buyers

Columbus Police say that they have received several reports recently of scammers making victims of those hoping to rent a home.

The victims discover the low-priced unit online and after sending money via a digital payment system such as Zelle, the victims discover the house was not for rent, already occupied or has even been sold.

The Better Business Bureau says that people regularly report to the bureau that would-be renters or purchasers frequently show up at a home, thinking they have made a rental agreement, only to find out that they have been scammed. According to the agency, more than 5 million people lost money to rental scams in a recent survey.

The Better Business Bureau says the most common type of scam is where the scammers simply copy information about a home and photos from an online real estate sales listing, posting it online as bait.

The scams have common elements including poor grammar or spelling errors in e-mail, social media or text conversations. The scammers will frequently claim that the pretend homeowner or landlord is out of town due to a family emergency and that the would-be renters should ignore any “For sale” signs at the home if they stop by.

The scammers normally use online payment services because a credit card would allow the victim to ask for a refund or chargeback from the scammer, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Columbus police say you should use caution if you are trying to rent or purchase a property. You should never send money online to people you do not know.