Scam artists targeting potential tenants at rental houses

WATERTOWN, Conn. (WTNH)–Police say it’s a scam that can be run from any computer. Scam artists target potential tenants looking to rent a house. Hackers create a fake rental ad, only with a real house and real photos.

“If you put your house up for sale, you take all your pictures of everything in your house all the rooms and they, take those pictures and put them out as it’s their own house,” said detective Mark Conway.

They post a for rent ad on Craigslist. The rent is low, the house nice. When you respond, they tell you to go look at the house, peek in the windows and ignore the for sale sign, they are taking it off the market. When you like it, they tell you to wire them a security deposit and they will mail you the keys. Police warn to never wire a stranger money.

“Know who you are wiring money to , because we have had people lose from $5,000 to $25,000.”

But what do you do if you’re the homeowner with a house up for sale?

One way to protect yourself is to keep the shades drawn. By doing that, if someone shows up and wants to look in and see if they want to rent it or not, they can’t see in. Police say this scam has more than one victim.

“There are two victims involved,” Conway said. “The person’s house that was put up for sale, and the person who is looking to rent a house, they will be the actual real victim who loses money.”

The bogus ads have been placed all around the state, and victims have been reported in Watertown, Bristol, Bridgeport, Derby, and Norwich.

“It would be tough for us to track down the con artist because they could be anywhere out of the state or country,” Conway said.

Police say a lot of the ads could have been posted from as far away as Nigeria.

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