Skip to main content

Looking for a rental?
Bad actors may be trying to scam you

rentalThe Norfolk Sheriff's Office recently received a law enforcement bulletin warning about rental fraud schemes being perpetrated across the country. We have received reports from residents of this happening locally as well.

Zillow - a national rental assistance company - has a lot of great information and tips on their website to avoid such scams.

The main warning signs they highlight are:

  • The opportunity is too good to be true
  • Pressure to send personal information or money before you’ve seen the property
  • Requests to send payment using untraceable payment methods
  • The person listing the rental is unwilling to meet
  • You can’t verify the property is actually for rent

Some recent examples shared by federal law enforcement agencies were:

• June 2023 - California criminal actors operated two fraudulent US businesses and posted fake rental property listings throughout the United States. One fraudulent US business listed 331 fake rental units and another US business listed 1,842 fake rental units.

• May 2023 - a separate group of California criminal actors impersonated a licensed California real estate agent to defraud prospective tenants by posting fake rental properties in the San Diego area on a known US marketplace website. The criminal actors also operated a real estate company whose website indicated it was located in San Diego. After inquiring about fake listings, victims were instructed to complete fraudulent leases and send security deposits via wire transfers. Once the criminal actors acquired the funds, they ceased all communications with the victims.

• April 2022 - unidentified criminal actors committed rental property schemes across the United States by re-advertising legitimate rental listings, independent of the original listings. The criminal actors collected application information, fees, and rent until the scam was revealed. The criminal actors used the personally identifiable information acquired from the victims of fraudulent rental applications to facilitate additional fraud activities. Between 2019 and 2022, criminal actors targeted between 50 and 100 rental properties.

• November 2021 - New Mexico real estate professionals saw an increase in rental property fraud in their area. One real estate agent discovered that one of their sale listings was also listed as available for rent by unknown posters on legitimate real estate sites. The contact number for the property listing was unknown to the real estate agent.

According to Zillow, these are some tip for how to avoid rental scams when you’re searching for a rental:

  • Confirm the property listing is legitimate
  • Verify the identity of the listing contact
  • Visit the property in person, or send someone you trust
  • Use trusted sources for any exchange of money

There's much more information available on Zillow's website.

If you've been subjected to a scam attempt like this, please contact
the Norfolk Sheriff's Office's Consumer Protection Unit to file a report.