INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indianapolis couple lost hundreds of dollars when they tried to rent a home through a popular website, only to find out the home wasn't really for rent at all.
The couple found a three bedroom, two bath home for rent on Zillow.com for $1300 a month.
They contacted the landlord who bumped the rent down to $700 a month, and they worked out a deal to move in.
The landlord didn't ask for bank account information, but the couple says that didn't raise any red flags because they believed if someone did ask for your banking information that was cause for concern.
The couple wired $900 to the landlord and went to the house to check it out. That's when they met the real owners of the home who said it is not for rent.
The couple says there were red flags: the 'landlord' called from different numbers in three different states and the person had an AOL email address.
Zillow isn't the only online rental/sales site where people can fall victim to fake listings; they happen on Craigslist and Trulia too.
If you spot a fake rental listing, contact the website to report it immediately.
We reached out to Zillow and the company released this statement:
Zillow goes to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our customer support team monitors activity on the site in a number of different ways and if a rental listing is found to be fraudulent, it is immediately removed from Zillow. Every rental listing on Zillow has a “Beware of Rental Scams” message at the top of the page, telling users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and directing them to our fraud and scams page, which provides valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings.
The Indiana Attorney General's Office has additional tips to protect yourself when looking into housing online:
Don't wire money. This is a common tactic used by scam artists because it is nearly impossible to get your money back after you wire it. Legitimate businesses and renters should not be asking for payments via money wire. Keep in mind that credit cards offer the best consumer protection against scams because you can dispute wrongful charges.
Don't pay a security deposit or first month’s rent before signing a contract. Never send money before understanding the terms and signing a contact.
Don't send money before seeing the property. Always check out the property in person before sending money or agreeing to a contract. If you cannot go yourself, ask a friend or family member to make sure the property exists and is legitimately for rent.
If you do an online search of the property and find it listed under another renter, it could mean a scammer has mimicked someone’s legitimate posting in attempt to scam you.
Consumers who believe they have been victimized in a rental property scam or any other scam can file a complaint with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General at www.IndianaConsumer.com or 800-382-5516.