Federal and State Officials Warn Consumers to be Aware of Rental Scams

Federal and State Officials Warn Consumers to be Aware of Rental Scams
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June 15, 2015

Federal and state officials are warning consumers of various rental scams that have been reported recently.

On the federal end, officials are reporting that criminals are setting up fake waiting lists for subsidized Section 8 housing, while the state Attorney General's Office is warning that scammers are setting up phony rental listings.

Beware of Phony Rental Listings

A woman near Winston-Salem was recently scammed out of $1,000 after she and her husband fell for a fake rent-to-own opportunity. The scammer created a fake rental listing on Craislist posing as the owner of a vacant property.

The victim sent a $1,000 deposit through MoneyGram and signed a contract only to find out later that the scammer didn't own the home and it had already been sold to another couple.

When browsing for homes for rent or sale online, the North Carolina Attorney General's Office advises that you look out for these warning signs:

  • The advertised price is significantly lower than similar properties in the area.
  • The listing says the owners will be gone for years and want someone to care for their home.
  • You're told you can only look in the windows of the property, not go inside.
  • You're asked to pay money upfront by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, and you may be asked to send the money overseas
  • You're told that keys are with the property owner and will be sent once the contract is signed and the deposit paid.
To protect yourself from a rental scam:

  • Search the property's address online. If the property is listed for rent or sale with a real estate agent, contact the realtor directly.
  • Walk away from the transaction if you're asked to pay a deposit before you've reviewed and signed a lease.
  • Use secure payment methods like certified bank checks or credit cards.

If you spot a scam, report it to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.

Phony Section 8 Waiting Lists

Scammers are using websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries.

The website requires a registration fee and personal information, but in reality, subsidized housing waiting lists never require a fee. The fake waiting lists also take away a victim's chance to register for the real lottery since victims usually don't realize the list was fake until the real one closes.

There is never a fee to register for a real Section 8 waiting list. To sign up for one, contact your local public housing authority.