Law Enforcement officials are warning of a new rental scam where victims are offered deep discounts on rental properties in exchange for pre-payment.

Who Is It Targeting: Residents of Tuolumne County, California.

What Is It:  According to law enforcement officials, there have been several reports in Tuolumne County, Ca where potential renters are contacted via text message about certain rental properties.  In these text messages the supposed landlord offers deep discounts on the listed rent rate in exchange for prepayment.  The text messager represents themselves as Amos Bradford, and lists a website.  The landlord and website appear to be legitimate but the person sending the text messages doesn’t actually represent or work for this landlord.  Once the renter agrees the scammer gives them instructions on how to pay (always via text message, the associated number is never answered when called).  Once the payment is received the scammer disappears with the would-be tenants hard earned money.

What Are They After: Cash, Money Orders, Wire Transfers, and Pre-Paid Debit Cards

How Can You Avoid It:  Always be wary of payment requests in the form of cash, money orders, or pre-paid debit cards.  This is the preferred method of payment for scammers because after the money is sent and received it functions like cash and unlike a bank transfer, is virtually untraceable.  Never sign a lease or pay money for “rent” on any location or property that you haven’t visited and toured in person.  Do not pay security deposits in cash as that makes the transactions much harder to track.  And as always, follow the general rule “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If you feel you’ve fallen victim to this scam, make a report with law enforcement.

You can call the ITRC for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530 or live chat with one of our advisors. For the latest scams, sign-up for our TMI (Too Much Information) Weekly Newsletter.