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Craigslist - Beware of rental scams

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If you're looking to rent a home don't be so quick to give up your cash. Those Internet rental scams are still out there and crooks are preying on the desperate and unsuspecting. A local woman called 12 to warn others after she says she was nearly duped.

Renee Dowdy is like most hard working Americans, she's just trying to make ends meet. But recently, like countless others she lost her home.

"I was out of work for 18 months, lost my job, was laid off, I owned the same house for 13 years; unfortunately I foreclosed on it. So I moved me and the kids in with my sister," she said.

For Renee, things only got worse, her sister just got the news her home is going into foreclosure. She turned to Craigslist hoping to find an affordable place to rent -- that too was a nightmare. "Of the six house I have contacted five of them have been scams," she told us.

She showed us several of the ads and emails from supposed homeowners on Craigslist. Most claimed to live in Africa. The Ads and emails were full of red flags. For example, Renee couldn't see inside the home, only pictures. And of course they all wanted money to be shipped overseas before she could get the keys. Some even used God to try and collect.

"I think them saying they are Missionaries and people of God is their way of making people believe they are good people and they wouldn't scam anybody," Renee said.

Rene did some investigating and was able to find out the truth before losing any money.

"I even explained to some of them that I was a single mother and they are willing to take my money," she said.

Amy Nelson, is Director of Investigations for Housing Opportunities Made Equal. She says the real homeowner usually has no idea what's happening and tracking the crooks down is almost impossible.

"You are talking about a small amount of money in a bigger picture of things and trying to run down who is sending emails and the accounts that are being used is difficult for those agencies," said Nelson. 

Nelson says never wire money. Also investigate the property, Google it, make sure it's not in foreclosure or on any other real estate website. You can also check property records to see who actually owns the home.

Renee is still looking, and hopes her story is a warning to others -- she's thankful she didn't fall for it.

"If I was to give them my money, I am back at ground one staring all over again," she said. 

Consumer experts say another red flag is if the homeowner will not agree to meet you in person. You can report the scams directly to Craigslist or the Internet crime Complaint Center.

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