Despite repeated warnings from authorities and continued media coverage about the rental scams that have become epidemic on Craigslist and elsewhere, many continue to fall victim. Among the latest apparent targets of a now-familiar con game -- a family of five in Southern California who say that they found a Craigslist advertiser so persuasive that they lost thousands of dollars in a phony deal and even ended up having their vehicle towed and being evicted by authorities. Mark Ames, an above-the-knee-amputee and his wife, Sharon, a disabled Navy veteran, moved with their children into a home in Riverside last month, through an ad they found on Craigslist. "It was everything it was supposed to be, except it wasn't," Mark Ames told Los Angeles TV station KTLA.
Their story -- viewed in the video above -- bears a striking similarity to other recent fraud cases reported by AOL Real Estate, including those of:
• An alleged con man who used the name of an employee at a legitimate real estate company while showing a New Orleans home to renters, after sneaking into the home through an open back window.
• Scammers who reportedly collected rent from a family in St. Louis for months on a home going through foreclosure, after changing its locks and forging ownership papers.
Renters should know that scammers will go to great lengths to make the bait in these con games look both legitimate and irresistible, even by copying and reposting legitimate listings. Among the red flags: Requests for money before a deal is confirmed and claims by a purported landlord or property representative that they're unable to meet with renters because they are out of town or otherwise unavailable.
AOL Real Estate's guide on avoiding Craigslist rental scams also warns of these:
1. A deal that sounds too good to be true. It probably isn't true, so compare listings to gain insight into the market rate. (And if the name of a legitimate real estate company of agent is used, contact that company to authenticate it and the person placing the ad.)
2. The bait-and-switch. Finding out that an apartment you were interested in has, when you arrive to see it, already been rented -- but another is available at a higher price.
3. Requests for deposit funds to be wired. Don't send checks or wire money to people that you don't know.
More about rental scams:
Homeless Man Allegedly Rents Out Vacant, Foreclosed Home
5 Tip-Offs To A Rental Scam
Renters Beware: Fraudsters Still Lurking on Craigslist
More on AOL Real Estate:
Find homes for rent.
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
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