TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Renters looking for an affordable place in this red-hot housing market now have something else to worry about: crooks posing as landlords.
The thieves post fake rental ads online and then try to create a buzz by telling potential renters there is a lot of interest in the place. They are banking on renters, in the frenzy of finding a good place to live, letting their guards down.
Once that happens, the crooks ask for a deposit to hold the place while they look into your application. In the end, they walk with your money and all of your personal information, putting you at risk for identity theft. The Better Business Bureau warns this is happening across the country.
Locally, it happened to Kalie Pidgeon. She was looking for a place in Dunedin and came across an ad for an apartment in Dunedin.
“Great move-in fees, reasonable price,” Pidgeon said. “It was right downtown. I got blinded, blindsided by how amazing the opportunity was.”
The 400-square-foot apartment was $800 a month. She says the “owner” told her she’d better hurry to reserve it for $600 through Zelle. Days later, she says he sent a text that her application was approved but now she needed to pay the first month’s rent in order to get the keys.
Suspicious, she started digging.
“We ended up seeing the actual listing that it used to be on Zillow and Trulia from the actual owner, and then that’s when I decided to go and knock on the door and she said that she had no intentions of moving out and that it was not a real ad,” she said.
In fact, she was told she was the third person to knock on the door with the same story.
She also found online ads from the same fake owner for units in Texas and California. Now, she worries about identity theft.
“If I had knocked on that door the day I drove by, I would have never even gotten into this,” she said. “So if your gut is telling you to knock on the door, then knock on the door.”