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St. Charles police warn of rental scams

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 4:39 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 10:54 p.m. CDT

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Police Department is warning the public of rental scams after it received a report of someone trying to rent out a house that was not for rent, police said in a news release.

The scammer reportedly targeted a house that was for sale through a legitimate real estate agent. This unknown person placed an advertisement for the residence on two popular real estate websites, Zillow and Trulia, police said.

The listing agent was contacted by people interested in renting the property, police said, noting the ads were removed.

It does not appear there were victims in this case, police said.

Police said this is not the first time they have taken this type of report. Prospective buyers should remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is, police said.

In this case, police said, the listed monthly rent for the house was $700.

“This is a tell-tale sign that a listing may be fraudulent,” police said. “Scam artists may hijack a legitimate listing and offer it for a price that sounds like a steal.”

Scammers will typically ask for the money to be sent via a wire transfer, or – as was the case in this most recent instance – they will say they had to leave the area quickly because of family or a job and request that the money be sent overseas, police said.

“This should be considered a red flag,” police said.

Other warning signs include being asked for a security deposit or first month’s rent before meeting the owner or seeing the property, police said.

Visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0079-rental-listing-scams or www.zillow.com/wikipages/Beware-of-Scams-and-Other-Internet-Fraud for information.

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