If you're in the market to lease a rental home, a good rule of thumb is to make sure the person from whom your renting actually owns the house.
This bit of advice is compliments of the Phoenix Police Department, which is warning the public about a scam where people are renting out foreclosed homes they don't even own.
The scam's actually pretty ingenious -- for criminals, anyway.
According to Phoenix Sergeant Steve Martos, the scammers will break into foreclosed homes and change the locks. Then, they advertise that they're renting out the house. The ads often will be for a month-to-month lease with no credit check.
The scammers then will meet potential renters at the home. Because they changed the locks, they have a key, so everything seems legit. But it's not.
The renters fork over first month's rent and move-in fees, and everything seems fine -- until they try to move in and realize the house is in foreclosure and the scammer never had the authority to rent it.
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Martos says the loss to each of victim has ranged from between $800 to $1,900 in cash.
Many of the victims have been going through foreclosure themselves and are desperate to find a place to live, Martos says.
One suspect has been arrested in connection with the scams, 35-year-old Raul Juarez, but police believe others are duping victims with a similar scam.
Phoenix police recomend that renters "do their homework" before exchanging any cash when renting a house.