EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - Looking for an apartment can be tough, and to make matters worse, there are fake rental property ads created by people attempting to get you to send them your security deposit.
"If it looks too good to be true it probably is," said Woods & Water realtor, Pamela Behnke.
Behnke said she recently closed on an Eau Claire home. But then on Jan. 25, her phone began ringing with people asking if the house was for rent.
"People are portraying that this property is a rental property and trying to get people to send them a security deposit," she said.
The scammer took her photos and description of the property and posted it to apartments.com, using the current owners name. The fake listing said the owners were missionaries and that's why they were renting their house, adding the property was furnished, pet-friendly, had three bedrooms, two baths, and was only $700 a month with utilities included.
"Somebody is trying to find a home, a place to live. If you take their security deposit then they're out that money to find an actual home," Behnke said.
Dozens of people reportedly contacted Behnke confused, because when they searched the address, it listed the home was for sale. Behnke soon discovered that this type of rental scam happens all the time. So, she reported it to the Better Business Bureau.
"The amount of money that we see people losing is just unbelievable," said Director of Investigations for the Wisconsin BBB, Lisa Schiller, adding there are red flags you can look out for.
"Know local rental prices. If someone offers you a great rental at an extremely low price, that should be a red flag and tell you to proceed with caution," Schiller said.
She also said to make sure the landlord will let you tour the property. Often with these scams they will say you can't see the interiors because they are out of town. And, be wary if they say to ignore any real estate listings.
"It upset me because I look at these people who are vulnerable that are looking for a home and they're trusting that they're looking at a property that's for rent but you can't trust everything that's online," Behnke said.
Behnke was able to have the listing taken off apartments.com after it had been up for several days. She said she is glad those that contacted her did their research but is worried for anyone else that could have fallen victim to this scam.
The Better Business Bureau has a scam tracker where you can report if you come across any similar scams. Schiller said the scam tracker received more than 1300 reports of rental fraud between 2016 and 2019.