Those looking to rent a home in Santa Clara County have been put on alert by a local real estate organization to beware of scammers posing as landlords of vacant properties, according to Palo Alto police.
The Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, also called SILVAR, recently issued the consumer alert after receiving reports of a scam in which imposter landlords illegally offered to rent vacant properties.
In the scam, the suspects advertise homes for rent online that are actually on sale. When prospective tenants call the phone number listed in the ad, they are asked to pay an application fee and rental deposit immediately in order to lease the unit, police said.
"It is tragic that people continue to prey on consumers who are in need of a place to rent. Potential renters are convinced to pay deposits and rent to unscrupulous people who take the money and run with the tenant left wondering what happened and with no funds to rent another property," said SILVAR President Suzanne Yost in a statement. "We are asking consumers to always verify the owner of the property you intend to rent and heed guidance issued by the California Department of Real Estate."
Palo Alto police say the scam has happened only a couple of times in that city over the past few years, but encouraged those seeking more information on this scam to read SILVAR's consumer alert.
Anyone who believes they have been victimized by a fake landlord is urged to contact the California Department of Real Estate at 510-622-2552. If the scam occurred in Palo Alto, the public is asked to also contact Palo Alto police at 650-329-2413.
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—Bay City News Service