Property Manager Warns Rental Scams Could Increase in Camp Fire Aftermath

AUBURN -- A property manager in Auburn is concerned that online rental scammers will become more active now that Camp Fire victims are entering the rental market.

Ed Koons, an attorney who is also part owner of Courthouse Property Management, said that a scammer recently hijacked one of his Craigslist advertisements for a condominium. It was put on a Zillow site but asked for a lower rental price and had different contact information.

Koons discovered that one person who responded sent the scammer $1,200 and another sent him $1,600.

Such scams are nothing new but Koons said he got 30 to 40 calls immediately for a condo listing from representatives of insurance companies looking for temporary housing for their clients.

"Poor grammar, bad spelling, and, 'Oh, and I can't be there to show it to you.' To me, that's just automatically, oh, this is a scam," Koons said.

He said the market in Auburn was already tight, making potential tenants anxious to lock in a rental without being shown the property by the owner or their agent.

The State Attorney General cautions against putting up money before an inspection of the property. Look out for property owners who give excuses as to why they can’t show the property.

"He says he's moved to Texas, family emergencies and he's undergoing chemotherapy," Koons said, reading an advertisement. "Trying to build a personal relationship. Obviously phony."

If you must send in money don’t wire it, send cash or use a debit card. Credit card transactions and checks are easier to trace.

And do some homework online, making sure to check out owners and property managers of rentals.

Also look for multiple ads that don’t match up, and make sure rental properties are not dummies created with false pictures. Another likely sign of a scam is a rental offered for way below the going rate which likely doesn’t exist in a tight housing market.