(Memphis) The rental market is booming across the Mid-South, but as it grows, so too are the number of thieves hoping to make a quick buck.
"The summer months have brought on more scam artists," said Kellyn Gowen, who works for Renshaw Property Management.
Gowen says a crook copied and pasted pictures from one of their rental listings and created his own on the real estate site Zillow.
Two local residents nearly fell for it.
"The spammer asked her to just go and peek in the windows and to see if she was interested in the property and she did, and he asked her to send a thousand dollars for the deposit and on Monday morning when she was ready to move in, he'd just leave the keys in the mailbox," Gowen explained.
Sounds odd, right?
Well, the client thought so, and didn't send the money, but instead realized Renshaw was renting out the property, so she alerted the management company.
Similar scams often pop up on Craigslist, but are now making their way to paid sites like Zillow. We even found one on Trulia.
Someone posted a 3,268 square foot house in Collierville available for rent for only $700.
In truth, it's for sale for more than $300,000.
We alerted the realtor.
A "too good to be true" reduced price is your first red flag, another is the fact that you won't get to see the house ahead of time.
"They don't let you enter and walk around, so that's a huge red flag," said Gowen.
The crooks will always do everything by mail, and often ask the client to wire money.
Also, watch out for mistakes online and on paper.
Gowen said the scammer went as far as sending a lease to one of potential victims.
"The address was not correct, the property manager's name wasn't correct, and that's when she started to notice things were fishy."
Another warning sign is that crooks won't do a credit check, or ask for any important financial information.
They'll also often play on the person's emotions by claiming they're out of town doing charity work. So, don't fall for it.
Renshaw is now adding watermarks to its pictures.
Gowen said they scour real estate sites for knock-off listings.
In addition, she said many of the sites will pull the fake listings if you report them as spam.