If you looking for a new place to live but have to do all you house hunting on line. Be aware, scammers are hijacking bona fide rental and real estate listings, that could not only leave you homeless, but penniless.
The Federal Trade Commission says don't get taken by a rental scam.
Here are some signs to look out for:
• They want you to wire money. This is the surest sign of a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
• They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent.
• They say they’re out of the country. But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys.
In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the landlord and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.