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Sheriffs Warn of Rental Property Scam Artists

| News | August 23, 2014

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station seeks to inform and advise the public routinely, through emails, Twitter and press releases. This week a warning was sent out to be shared regarding recent rental property scams occurring.

Recently, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Crime Prevention Unit (CPU) became aware of scams involving real estate for rent, especially properties that are posted online for rent or lease. One of the strategies of rental scammers is to price the “fake” rental below the average rental rate in a specific market. This allows the scammers to receive as many emails or inquiries as possible. The scam is an old one: sell or rent an “awesome” property at a “low price,” then make off with the cash (often times first and last month’s rent plus fees) as the victim discovers he or she has been left with a fake listing on a property that now doesn’t actually belong to them.

The Santa Clarita Valley rental scams that CPU deputies are seeing have several variations, but they typically follow the same basic code: A con artist finds a property, pretends to be the owner or renter or listing agent, lists the property online, then communicates with the would-be renter (the victim) and takes a cash deposit and/or personal information (often times used for identity theft).
Although avoiding becoming a victim to a real estate scam can be tricky, here are some suggestions to avoid being victimized:
Only deal with landlords, renters or property managers who are local.
Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service; especially to wire money upfront.
Beware of e-mail correspondence from the “landlord” that’s written in poor or broken English, especially emails that start out with Sir / Madam and have excessive capitalization.
Research the average rental rates in that specific area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower.
Ask yourself, “Why is this owner so gosh darn eager to have me?” Legitimate property owners and managers take the time to ask questions and screen potential tenants.
Collect documents. During a real estate or rental transaction, ask for copies of everything: checks, money orders, the application, receipts, the lease, etc.
“Go with your gut”; if the rental looks far too good to be true, then it probably is.

We encourage residents to immediately report criminal or suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. If you have fallen victim to one of these scams, call the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at 661-255-1121. Also, your Zone Leader Deputy has further information. Find out who your zone leader is by visiting: www.santaclarita.lasd.org.

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