Rental Scam Targeting Iowa Homes

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CLIVE, Iowa -- Clive police say just this week a resident alerted them of a rental scam on Craigslist.  "He had a property in Des Moines that was being broadcast on Craigslist as for rent. He's not renting that property," said Clive Police Department Detective Maurio Coleman.  Investigators say these rental scammers will try to do everything through email or phone.  "The renter that thought he was going to rent something would send money out and come to find out when the day comes to move in, there is no rental property there because the house is being lived in," said Coleman.

Alice Cronin lives in West Des Moines.  She found out her home was being used to scam renters through a Craigslist ad in July.  "I had never heard of this scam before and I was upset."  With her home already for sale, scammers simply used pictures on her realtor's website.  She said, "It almost feels like an invasion because it is like someone is putting info out there about you and your home."

Making matters worse, Alice says the woman who thought she might rent the home had been displaced with her children during the recent flash flooding.  "It's like as if they hadn't been hit hard enough by what's displacing them.  Scammers are taking advantage of them and hitting them hard again," said Cronin.

Police say there are four keys to prevent yourself from being a victim.  Never send a deposit electronically.  Always speak with someone in person.  Never give personal info over the phone or internet.  Finally, check address and ownership in person.  Luckily that is what the woman did, said Alice.  "I believe she took off on a lunch hour to see and drove by and that's when she came.  She asked me if this was for rent and as soon as she told me the story we called the police."

With online shopping so widely accepted in today's society, carelessness will always be inviting to scammers.  Detective Coleman said, "The scammers see that it is easy enough to fool people that way because people are so willing to use credit cards and bank accounts like that over the internet."

Police say thankfully the parties in these two instances did everything right to avoid the scam but that isn't always the case.  Coleman said, "All they need is one person.  One person they get and that is 100% profit."

No arrests have been made in either case.  If your home is ever used in a similar way, Detective Coleman says homeowners can contact the website marketplace and they will blacklist that ad immediately.

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