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Online home rental scams on the rise in Tampa Bay

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

If you're in the market to rent a home, be extra cautious before filling out an application via email.

Crooks are increasingly posting fake ads on websites like Craigslist or Trulia to trick applicants into turning over personal information they can use to steal identities.

Scammers will copy a real ad, or even an expired one, and post an unbelievably low rental price. When an applicant calls, they ask for an application and sometimes they ask for a deposit.

Douglas Richards says a crook copied his ad from six months ago on Craigslist. His new tenant called him to say would-be renters were stopping by the house and asking about renting the home. They said they saw an ad on Craigslist that said the home was for rent for $750 a month.

But the house isn't for rent anymore, and the going-rate is $1,100 not $750. Richards didn't know why people thought the house was for rent, until he discovered the ad himself.

"Eventually, I found the ad on Craigslist, and it was a duplicate of the ad that I had placed there six months prior,” he said. “The person who had placed the ad collected the same information, the exact same text, all the pictures of the inside and the entire house, and portrayed it their own."

Spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer says this type of scam is on the rise.

"The people that could have been victims here are the ones that showed up thinking they were going to rent this home," Eleazer said. "If they had given out any personal information to the person who posted this fake ad, that's all that person needed to steal their identify and subsequently steal money from them."

Before you apply to rent a home, 8 On Your Side recommends:

*You check the ownership of the house yourself. Check county property appraisers' websites to find out the true owner.

*Beware if a potential landlord asks you to fork over cash or personal information before you can see the inside of the property.

*And if no one is available to show you the home, it's likely a scam.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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