CHARLESTON - Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned consumers about a rental property scam that is circulating throughout West Virginia.
In the scam, people post fake rental advertisements on websites such as Craigslist and other classified or rental sites. When consumers contact the supposed landlords, they are provided information about properties that might not exist, are not available or are owned by someone else. The landlords often ask for rent up front with a promise that keys or a lease will be mailed upon receipt of payment.
In other situations, scammers are hacking into the emails of property owners and sending fake, forged contracts out through a website for vacation rental property owners. These contracts direct the renters to send money either through pre-paid debit cards or money order to bank accounts owned by the scammers.
"It is unfortunate that a group of scammers are giving landlords a black eye. Many hardworking West Virginians are looking for a decent place to rent, live, or stay during their next family vacation," Morrisey said. "It is important that consumers verify that the rental property is legitimate before sending landlords or leasing agents money."
The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has received multiple complaints regarding illegitimate residential rental properties. Consumers are encouraged to use a credit card, PayPal, or a payment option on a rental website to avoid being scammed. These are alternatives to sending cash or checks to an unfamiliar location, and a good way to help protect your money.
Also, consumers should try to visit rental properties in person when possible and verify that the person they have communicated with is in fact the property owner. Some websites, such as www.flipkey.com, can provide a background check on landlords and can verify the rental properties that you are looking into.
If you believe you have been the victim of a rental property scam, please contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or visit www.wvago.gov.