Scam artists have set their sights on the rental market, and officials in Orange County are training residents on how not to become victims.
State investigators and fraud prevention experts covered a variety of different scams and fraud during a free event in Lake Forest Friday, but said their biggest concern has been the proliferation of scams in the rental market.
Would-be renters are paying for pre-rental lists, which are supposed to show homes before they hit the market. The problem is some of those listings don’t actually exist or don’t belong to the person claiming to be the landlord, experts said.
“Make certain you’re dealing with a licensed, reputable person. Make certain you see the home. Make certain you call and ask questions about the home,” said Wayne Bell, the California Real Estate Commissioner. "Tour the property if you can, and make certain, again, you're dealing with someone who's licensed and competent and reputable."
The scams go beyond those lists, though. Trusted websites like Trulia.com have been hacked by scammers.
"People have found an angle that they can attack and take unsuspecting people and just go ahead and steal their money," realtor Steve Weatherbee said."Make sure you're dealing with an office with a local phone number, or at least only one area code away, that has a legitimate website."
Only 15 companies in the state have a license for pre-rental lists, Wayne said.
Assemblymen Dan Wagner hosted the event. Wagner has proposed legislation that would add huge fines to anyone who fraudulently takes money for loan modifications.