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Fake landlords scam desperate renters

A Craigslist scam continues to prey on desperate would-be tenants in a tight rental market, Medford police say.

Out-of-area scammers are again posing as owners of actual properties in Medford, according to Medford police. The scammers use real estate photos scraped online and information gleaned from public records to make their ads for rentals at bargain rates more convincing.

According to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau, no one’s yet lost money in the latest wave of rental scams. A woman based in Portland moving to the area almost fell prey, but pulled out of the scam after a family member in the area checked out the advertised house and learned from an actual resident that the home was neither for sale nor for rent.

An example Craigslist ad screenshot posted Thursday by Medford police shows a scam listing for a 3-bedroom, 2-1/2 bath home with a “gigantic pool with a swrily slide” in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, all for $800 a month. The ad includes “Pets OK,” making the ad more appealing to pet owners struggling to find a place.

The rental ads look like a bargain, and the scammers encourage applicants to move fast to lock in the price before offering so much as a tour. Scammers communicate instructions by text and email to wire money to secure the rental and promise to overnight the keys, which never arrive.

Budreau said the online scams nearly always come from outside the United States, making it extremely difficult for local police to track down a suspect or recover a victim’s money.

The scammers often pose as the property’s actual listed owner — easily found online — according to earlier reports. The fact the scammer communicates solely by text should be considered a red flag, police say.

Rental applicants should beware of landlords eager to skip credit or background checks, be suspicious of instructions to send cash or wire money and watch for spelling errors that indicate the scammer is out of the country.

Medford police also recommend meeting the landlord in person and talking to current and previous tenants before moving forward.