PARK HILLS, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Colleen Bradford lives in Park Hills but wanted to move to St. Louis County, so she went online looking for a house to rent.
"It sounded like an ideal situation, I'm kind of excited and thinking this is a blessing," said Bradford.
Bradford posted on a Facebook page for apartment listings in St. Louis that she was looking for a house to rent and was contacted by someone who said he would put her in contact with the landlord of the home he’d been renting.
The man who claimed to be the owner sent Bradford a message saying he was working out of state and that he’d send her the keys as soon as she wired him $700 for the first month’s rent and a $350 security deposit.
The fact that the man couldn’t meet her in person and that she couldn’t see the house before sending money made her nervous.
"Something was just wrong with that,” said Bradford.
Bradford cancelled plans to rent the home and contacted News 4, who was able to locate the actual owner of the house who didn’t know scammers were using information on her home to try to defraud people.
“It's a little shocking just to know this could be happening without my knowledge at all,” said Liz Grant.
John Williams with St. Louis Realtor told News 4 that anyone renting a home should be on guard for scammers who purport to be a landlord and try to convince people to send them money.
"It is an existing problem and what people have to be aware of is if they see an ad and it's too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true,” said Williams.
Williams said criminals often pull photos from listings for home sales and rentals to create fraudulent ads, and can do it from anywhere in the world. He advises renters to do their homework before agreeing renting a home, which could include a call to a realtor to double-check property information.
"The most critical thing people need to be aware of is this, don't send money blindly," said Williams.
Anyone shopping for a home to rent is advised to never rent sight-unseen, always meet the landlord in person, know who the property owner is and don’t wire money.
Police say these crimes are hard to investigate but victims are encourage to report them anyway.