Home, apartment rental scams on the rise

CORONA, Calif. People have to live somewhere, and that's why you'll see plenty of offers to rent, especially on the Internet. But as one Corona woman found out, some of those offers are not the least bit legitimate.

Heather Salinas of Corona has been looking for another place to rent for several weeks. She told me about a five-bedroom home that looked perfect, but the monthly rent sent up a red flag.

"I came across one that was a five-bedroom for $1,200, and I just kind of was like, well, maybe they made a typo," said Heather.

But it wasn't a typo. What Heather had spotted was a scam, and she knows scams.

Last year Eyewitness News did a story with Heather about a cashier's check scam. Heather had been taken for about $5,000 and she wasn't going to let it happen again.

"I don't want to lose another $2,200 when I've lost 5,000 last year. I have three kids I need to support," said Heather.

But now this new scam using house and apartment rentals is making the rounds on Web sites like Craig's List. In the e-mails Heather received from the supposed owner of the five-bedroom home, he said he had been in an accident where he lost his hearing and his wife.

He wanted Heather to use Western Union to wire the first month's rent and deposit, which amounted to more than $2,000. But Heather didn't take the bait, which was a very good decision.

The supposed owner of the house that Heather wanted to rent told Heather through e-mail that the house was vacant. However, the neighbors next door said that's not the story at all.

"Yes, there's a family that lives next door right now," said Debbie Kirby, neighbor to the supposedly vacated house. "They own the house."

So without the knowledge of the real owners of the home, someone was trying to rent it out as part of their scam. I did try to talk to them but they weren't home at the time.

Craig's List tries to keep an eye on such scams and does post a warning about them. They say:

  • Deal locally with people you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds via Western Union or MoneyGram.
  • And remember: fake cashier's checks and money orders are common.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it's a big no for me. That's a big red flag," said Heather.

Another scam to watch out for involves the renter of a place posing as the owner. They then take your security deposit and skip town. And all of these rental scams are taking place in every county of Southern California. So be very careful.


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