Online scam targets renters

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PHOENIX -- If you're looking for a house to rent or maybe you're thinking of renting out your home, there's a new scam you need to know about.

This is probably one of the most clever scams I've come across in a long time.

The victims are people who are trying to rent a home and there are a lot of you out there. But whatever you do, don't let this happen to you.

Frank Brown has rental property so when he needs a tenant he usually advertises on the popular Web site Craigslist, which has always been successful for him.

"So far, so good," he said. "I've been pretty lucky. I haven't had any kind of nightmares. I've had a lot of good people."

His latest ad describes his house, features photos and indicates how much rent is, which is $1,200.

But things turned a little weird one day when Brown says a woman showed up out of the blue to look at his home and he was there.

"We came into the house and she said, 'Wow, I can't believe you're renting this for only $800," Brown said. "I said, 'What? I'm not renting this for $800."

It turns out that a conman took Brown's ad complete with all the photos, duplicated it and re-posted it in a cheaper section saying rent was only $800.

Now when prospective renters e-mail the scammer, he replies saying, "God bless you for your interest in my house. I am renting it to a responsible and neat person who has the fear of God and will take care of my home."

He goes on to say, "Drive by the house and if you like it, we'll get together on a price."

When people see what a nice house they're getting for $800, they get excited and immediately e-mail the conman, who is in the United Kingdom, and wire him money.

It's the perfect scam. Brown says he knows of one guy who even gave the conman his credit card and other personal information just so he could get the house.

Brown says he feels horrible. He just wants to rent his home.

He doesn't want his house to be used as bait to rip people off.

"The lesson learned is basically what you've been telling everyone for years and that is don't give your information to someone you don't know and know what you're getting into," Brown said.

Brown had to hire a real estate agent to help rent out his home and to keep people from getting ripped off any further.

In the meantime, just remember, always meet face to face with the person you'll be renting from.

Dealing with someone out of the country or out of state is probably a red flag you're getting scammed.