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Rental scams thriving in Southern Colorado, consumer protection experts warn

Fraudsters duplicating legitimate rental listings and lowering prices hoping to get a people to pay them a deposit
Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 05, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS — We continue to follow warnings about fake rental listings circulating online. News5 spoke with a family who recently listed their home for rent, just to find out that someone was using their pictures to craft a fake post to steal from potential renters.

A home in a Colorado Springs westside neighborhood was recently listed online available to rent. The owners say they carefully vetted and scheduled interviews with potential renters. When random people started showing up claiming they had an appointment, they knew something was going on.

”We had people come by on the Ring camera and we picked somebody in the yard looking around and thought well that’s odd. So with the camera we could talk to them and have live audio,” said property owner Matt Thierfelder. “They said oh, no I’m here to rent the house, I talked to the lady… and the person that was going to rent them the house obviously wasn’t us.”

He says fraudsters used pictures of his rental home and significantly undercut the asking price for monthly rent in a fake online post. He’s concerned people who paid the person behind the post might come to his property looking for answers.

”If someone got $500 taken from them for a deposit, I’d go back to the house and say where’s my $500 bucks,” said Thierfelder.

But that money is gone, now in the pocket of a fraudster who lured in their victims with a fake rental listing and price that was too good to be true.

”It doesn’t make sense on so many levels, but people want to believe that things are true, especially when it works to their benefit,” said Thierfelder. “So, be careful when you are believing in something that’s too good of a deal.”

Leaders at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado say schemes like this are having a lot of success in our area right now because more people are looking for places to rent right now.

”The inventory is still there if you want to buy you can, but the market isn’t as hot as it was because the interest rates are not as great as they were. So, it means people are still going to buy, but they are also going to be renting,” said BBB of Southern Colorado CEO Jonathan Liebert.

With fraudsters operating online, it’s often difficult to hold them accountable because they could be anywhere in the world and there’s a lack of information.

”A lot of times people are embarrassed and it goes unreported. The local law enforcement can’t build a case against it,” said Liebert.

To avoid falling for a rental scam, consumer experts say you...

  • Shouldn’t pay someone you’ve never met and don’t know
  • Push to meet in person and tour the property to verify it’s as advertised
  • Be suspicious if the person advertising the property doesn’t take steps to make sure you are trustworthy too. 

Unfortunately fake rental listings can stay online for extended periods of time if users are not taking the time to flag them. If you see something suspicious in an online marketplace or on social media, reporting it could help remove that post and save someone from losing money.

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