MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Blount County Sheriff’s Office is warning people about a scam targeting potential renters.
The sheriff’s office is urging everyone to be careful about trying to rent homes listed on Facebook Marketplace or other online outlets. Sheriff James Lee Berrong says scammers are using real estate listings and advertising them as rentals to get people to send them a deposit and rent.
The sheriff’s office shared on Facebook that they were recently contacted by someone who fell for the scam.
The victim found a house for rent on Facebook Marketplace, and according to the sheriff’s office, they confirmed it was legitimate because the house was listed for rent on Zillow and other real estate websites. Then the victim contacted the Facebook listing and sent $1,000 in Bitcoin through a Bitcoin machine in Knoxville.
“The scammer even contacted the Zillow page and got the actual listing agent to give him an unaccompanied site view. The fraudulent Facebook Marketplace scammer sent his ‘prospective renter’ to the house instead of him going, which made the prospective renter think it was even more legitimate,” shared the sheriff’s office on Facebook.
This incident is causing the sheriff’s office to urge everyone to be “extra careful” when looking into rental properties.
WATE has covered similar scams in the past, including one where strangers discovered the scam after meeting at the same house. Previously, the Federal Trade Commission said rental scams were multiplying with countless fake ads on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
There are several ways someone can protect themselves from these scams, including:
• Consult with licensed real estate agents and lenders
• Don’t deal with someone who will not meet you in person.
• Don’t send rent or a security deposit before signing a lease.
• Never give personal or financial information to someone you don’t trust.
• If the price seems too good to be true, it likely is.
• If the listing is full of typos, poor grammar, or excessive punctuation, beware.
“We do not want to see anyone taken advantage of! Thoroughly vet the rental listing to make sure it is legitimate, meet the landlord in person, and make sure the landlord is there when you look at the property,” wrote the sheriff’s office.
If you have been scammed, report it to local law enforcement, contact the listing website where you found the property, and report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Make sure to report the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the transaction took place.