Santa Clara County DA warns of online rental scams


The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office is warning consumers about online postings for low-priced rental properties that are scams meant to make off with people's deposits.

The rental property scams online are a growing criminal trend, with perpetrators running them from within the county and overseas, according to district attorney's office spokesman Sean Webby.

Some of the posters, who use home and apartment rental websites such as, do not own or are not authorized to rent the places and are simply in business to steal deposit money, Webby said.

While most online postings for rentals are genuine, consumers should be wary of advertised rental amounts that are too low compared to similar housing in the area, Webby said.

Rental applicants should not pay anything unless they first go inside the property up for rent and to use a credit card for the deposits because card charges may be canceled for a limited time if a problem is detected, Webby said.

Prospective renters should also avoid wiring deposit money to anyone, Webby said.

The district attorney's office recommends checking the name of the owner of the rental and make sure it is the same person on the lease agreement, Webby said.

Consumers should also find out if the mortgage is in default and if the rental property is up for sale, Webby said.

Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by a rental scam may contact the district attorney's Real Estate Fraud Hotline at (408) 792-2879.

— Bay City News Service


Like this comment
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Pay a deposit with a credit card? Hahaha, just try offering that to any landlord, and watch them laugh you out onto the street. Cashier's check or money order are the only things accepted, even at "name" complexes, let alone any shady operators.

Besides, if they truly -are- a shady operator, do you really want them to have your credit card number?

Like this comment
Posted by Candice
a resident of Slater
on Sep 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm

This article has "Duh!" written all over it. I'm sorry, but the people stupid enough to fall for these scams are the same people that have sent money to a Nigerian bank account in exchange for a promise of a million dollars.

In this rental market, any rent that seems too good to be true is a SCAM and the ad (Craigslist) should be immediately flagged.

Like this comment
Posted by Flava Dave
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Flava Dave is a registered user.

Hard to be safe-- there was a guy pulling a scam where he actually showed the apt. What was that...2-3 mo ago? Local tv news ran a story. Guess best thing to do is check with the apt management office as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Thanks
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Thank you for running this story. If it stops even one person from falling for this, it will have been very helpful. The rental market in Mtn View is so hard right now, people are getting desperate. When people get desperate, they do fall for a scam when normally they would know better.

Like this comment
Posted by FrankSki
a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 21, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I have to agree with @Thanks on this one. If just one person reads this and is spared, the info was worth it. Madd props to the District Attorney's Office for making this known. I only wish they and other Law Enforcement Agencies did outreach like this more often.

@Flava Dave: I remember seeing something like what you mentioned on 20/20, American Greed or something like that. You are right about these scammers...proven cases that they've rented out property they don't even own. :(

@Grumpy: Like the article said, paying with a credit card (which a LOT of properties are now accepting despite you saying you'd be laughed at) IS MUCH BETTER THAN PAYING WITH CASH, PERSONAL CHECK OR CASHIERS CHECK. I personally WOULD want them to have my credit card number...because the fraud charges can be reversed and a new card/number issued without much hassle (usually just a police report number). However, if the scammer gets your cash, good luck getting anything back from the bank (in a timely manner, anyway, if at all).

I know...I've been an ID Theft victim before. Your grumpiness is ill-advised on this one.

Jus' sayin'!

Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 21, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I am the landlord of a single rental house, of course I don't have a way to accept credit cards. However I have the keys to the rental and show people the house when it's for rent.I would never laugh at them for asking me to accept a credit card I just cannot. I accept a check for the deposit.
If you rent a place that will take credit cards like a big apartment complex I would use the credit card, if you find fraud the credit card company will not make you pay and will give you a new credit card with a different number, you really have nothing to lose.

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