Beware of rental property scam making the rounds, Morrisey advis - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Beware of rental property scam making the rounds, Morrisey advises

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Yet another scam is circulating in West Virginia, this time involving rental properties.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said scammers are posting fake rental advertisements on Craigslist and other classified rental sites. When unsuspecting consumers contact the supposed landlords, they're provided information about properties that might not exist, are not available or are owned by someone else. The landlords often ask for rent up front with a promise that the keys or a lease will be mailed upon receipt of payment.

In another variation, the scammers hack into the emails of actual property owners and send fake, forged contracts out through a website for vacation rental property owners. These contracts direct the renters to send money either through pre-paid debit cards or money order to bank accounts owned by the scammers.

“It is unfortunate that a group of scammers are giving landlords a black eye,” Morrisey said. “Many hardworking West Virginians are looking for a decent place to rent, live, or stay during their next family vacation. It is important that consumers verify that the rental property is legitimate before sending landlords or leasing agents money.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has received multiple complaints regarding illegitimate residential rental properties. Consumers are encouraged to use a credit card, PayPal, or a payment option on a rental website to avoid being scammed. These are alternatives to sending cash or checks to an unfamiliar location, and a good way to help protect your money.

Also, he said consumers should try to visit rental properties in person when possible and verify that the person they have communicated with is in fact the property owner. Some websites, such as flipkey.com, can provide a background check on landlords and verify the rental properties that you are looking into.

Anyone who may have been victimized by a rental property scam is asked to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 888-368-8808 or online at wvago.gov.