Norwich police are investigating a “house for rent” scam where they said a fake owner is asking perspective renters to send to mail money to an out of state address with the promise to FedEx the keys.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Norwich Police Capt. James Veiga.
Veiga said the department got a call from someone who was scammed and started to investigate. Police said the phone number and email address from the suspect are fictitious.
When it comes to finding a product online, Veiga said prospective buyers or renters should meet with the seller face-to-face, never wire money. It’s a red flag when a landlord will not meet in person. A prospective buyer can even contact their health department or local building official who might have information on the property listed.
“Over the last few years we’ve seen many more internet-type scams. Scams where the person will claim they’re heading over to Afghanistan, they need to sell a car, they need to rent an apartment out. They’ll give it to you at a fantastic deal if you send the money right away,” Veiga said.
Craigslist has a very detailed “Avoid Scams & Fraud” page. Listed at the top, highlighted in yellow, it reads “Deal locally, face-to-face—follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts.” It also lists how to recognize scams on the site.
Veiga said if a person believes they were scammed or is concerned about a potential scam to contact police.
William Raveis Real Estate Realtor Steve Taylor said the safest bet is to hire a real estate agent.
“Because the agents know the ins and outs. They have a way, a resource, to do the background work and the background check,” Taylor said, adding that using an agent is at no cost to the buyer or tenant.
It’s something Debra Guntner knows all too well. Her daughter-in-law was almost a victim to a very similar scheme on Craigslist.
“They said it was for rent and also said you send the money and we’ll send you the keys. And they even sent her a contract,” Guntner said.
Guntner tracked down the real estate agent who was actually selling the home—it wasn’t even for rent. Which is why she heeds the warning to be careful on the web. Some scams can be convincing – it even took her daughter-in-law a number of days to wrap her head around what was happening.
“It was so real, it took me time to convince her. But she did come around,” Guntner said.