FBI issues consumer alert warning of phony online rental ads

Federal Burearu of Investigation FBIBy: Dennis Norman

The FBI has issued a consumer alert warning of phony online rental ads. According to the alert, the scam goes like this:

You can’t believe your good fortune-you find a rental home in a nice area through a Craigslist classified ad at an unbelievably low rate. The landlord-who had to leave the country and travel to Nigeria-asks that you wire him two months worth of rent. You arrive at the home on the agreed-upon date, but there is just one small problem- the house is not actually for rent and its owners know nothing about your agreement.

This latest scam is being perpetrated by Nigerian criminals located halfway aroudn the world and has been seen in a number of U.S. states, perhaps in response to the current housing market- with fewer people buying, more people are renting.

The FBI offers these tips to avoid being victimized:

  • Only deal with landlords or renters who are local
  • Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service
  • Beware of email correspondence from the “landlord” that is written in poor or broken English
  • Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower
  • Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
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