IN YOUR CORNER: Fighting fake rental listings

In Your Corner

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In a quiet northwest Oklahoma City neighborhood, one home is making an online splash.

The rental home is on NW 119th, featuring four bedrooms and four baths, and is listed on several websites for $1,000 or less a month.

That price is an absolute steal. It’s also an absolute scam, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

“We’ve actually seen an increase in this type of scam, whenever COVID really hit,” said Kitt Letcher with the BBB.

Commonly called the Craigslist scam, Kitt Letcher says these ads are too good to be true, and can be a way to make a quick buck as scammers ask for deposit money up front.

“If the company is asking for a security deposit [without meeting in person],” Kitt explained. “You have no recourse; it’s like sending cash, you have no way to send it back.”

Fake listings for this particular home can be found across the internet with wide ranging prices.

A local family reached out to In Your Corner after paying upwards of $2,000 to try and move in.

The fraudsters in this instance somehow gained access to the home’s lockbox, allowing the unsuspecting family to tour the home.

They even sent the family a fake lease agreement.

“This is actually one of the first time I’ve ever heard of [a lockbox being compromised],” said Kitt. “It’s a really unusual circumstance; I would say that’s probably an issue with the company renting.”

The company in charge of the listing is Main Street Renewal out of Oklahoma City.

In fact, we found that the property was unlocked, and met several excited possible tenants who were fooled by fake listings.

Main Street Renewal responded with the following comment:

“We continue to work to proactively identify possible scammers so appropriate action can be taken to safeguard our current and prospective residents, and our communities. If an individual in one of our homes or attempting to lease one of our homes is affected, we work to promptly contact them to strongly encourage them to contact local authorities to report the incident. As a matter of policy, we also offer the opportunity to apply for a lease to one of our homes. We maintain numerous active measures to alert and protect residents from these situations, including visible signage on our homes of how to spot a rental scam and where they can find verified listings of our available homes, frequently updated fraud prevention recommendations on our website, and clear verbiage on all listings with safety best practices. We will continue to take all appropriate action to keep our homes, residents and communities safe and secure.”

In Your Corner also reached out to one of the fake listings, where the fraudster quickly responded via text, email and phone call.

These pushy tactics are a hallmark of such scams.

“That sense of urgency is something that’s inflated, because it’s not really there,” added Kitt. “It’s a way to make people rush the decision making process, so they don’t do their homework.”

Bottom line, when you and your family are looking to rent, do your research!

Sticking with websites such as Zillow may be your best bet, as they are better equipped to snuff out fraud before it starts.

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