NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With the Internet, it’s easier than ever to find your next apartment or vacation rental.
But experts are warning consumers that many of the online listings they encounter could be fake.
As more people move to Dallas-Fort Worth, a local real estate broker knows too well that what you see is not always what you get.
“It’s awful, absolutely awful,” said Cheri Feuerbacher, a real estate broker with Red Branch Realty.
Feuerbacher said she knew something was wrong when the flood of phone calls started.
Renter after renter wanted to talk about a listing from Feuerbacher’s company. Only the property wasn’t a rental. It was for sale. The crook posed as the owner.
“We have no idea where he was able to get our professional photographs and descriptions, but he put it on Facebook Marketplace as his own personal home,” Feuerbacher said.
She said three people fell for the scheme, with each paying more than $900.
But they’re not alone.
On Tuesday, the Better Business Bureau held a news conference about the rise of rental scams.
“Don’t be rushed,” said James Elliott, the assistant director of the Southwest region of the Federal Trade Commission. “If you’re being pressured into trying to respond quickly, take your time it may be a scam.”
If you’re looking to rent, consumer experts say tour the property before making a payment.
If that’s not possible, Google the address to make sure it exists and is situated in an accurate location.
Then, avoid wiring money.
“Wiring money is like sending cash. Once you send it, you’ll never get it back,” Elliott said.
Laura Molnar, with Expedia Group, said be wary of certain websites when you’re searching for vacation rentals.
“People will go to Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, which is great for a used lawnmower, but I don’t recommend it for vacation rentals, and the reason is they’re not vetted,” Molnar said.
Some companies that do vet listings include Airbnb and VRBO, which is owned by Expedia Group.
But scammers can still strike.
Check the page’s URL to make sure you’re searching the proper site, not a spoof.
Beware of any owner that asks you to move the transaction offsite.
Whether you’re using Facebook, Airbnb or VRBO, consumers should report any suspicious listings.
Another red flag is a price that’s just too cheap for the location and amenities.