Police, realtors warn of vacant home rental scam

Police, realtors warn of vacant home rental scam

By Katie Crowther. CREATED Oct 7, 2011

Las Vegas, NV - Vacant homes are being used to commit fraud, and innocent people are getting caught in the middle.

A great property, in a great location, and the price is right. It all seems perfect, until the truth comes out. It's a consumer alert on a rental scam that's showing up in the local housing market.

With a lot of people in the valley looking for an affordable place to live, it's the perfect time for scammers to strike. The latest con? A housing ad that looks legitimate, but is really just a way to part people and their money.

A couple began renting a home in the southwest valley a few weeks ago. Little did they know, it wasn't actually for rent.

"They paid $3,500 in cash for the security deposit and first month's rent," says realtor, Brenda Crosbie-Jaeger. "They were scammed. They'll never see that money again."

The con artists they rented from, saw the house was a vacant, foreclosed property, and capitalized on it. They allegedly advertised it for rent on Craig's List, and in the Review Journal. They had the renters mail their payment to an address in San Diego.

"They were unauthorized to rent out that house," Crosbie-Jaeger says. "They said they were realtors, put together a fake lease agreement, and forged the seller's name."

The scammers went as far as changing the locks on the house for the new renters. They even met with the renters, face to face.

The suspects are described in the police report as a woman, and two men, who looked middle-eastern and wealthy.

"The renters say the suspects were Driving a BMW, and were dressed very nicely," Crosbie-Jaeger says. "Both males were wearing suits and ties."

According to Metro, this is not an isolated incident. Police say this is a crime happening more and more in neighborhoods across the valley.

"With our current economy, and especially the housing situation, some criminals have seen this as an opportunity to list homes as if they are the owners of the property," says Jay Rivera. "Then they make money off of it."

Rivera says the key to protecting yourself, is research. "Do your due diligence. Make sure the individual you are dealing with, is authorized to rent that property."

That includes making sure to only work with a licensed realtor or property management firm, and asking to see identification.
You can learn who owns a house by checking The Clark County Assessor's web site at http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/assessor. Or call the office at 702-455-3882.