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San Diego Realtors’ Group Warns Against Rental Fraud

Evening Edition

Above: A local realtors' group is providing home sellers and real estate agents with a helpful tool to help protect potential buyers from rental fraud.

There's a new tool to fight the rise of real estate and rental fraud in San Diego.

At a press conference Friday, the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors announced they are now giving out stickers for the windows of vacant homes that will make it clear to potential buyers that the home is not for rent.

Leslie Kilpatrick, president of SDAR, says rental scams are all too common.

"We've all heard the stories. A vacant, for-sale home is fraudulently advertised online for rent for an incredibly low price," Kilpatrick said.

That's red flag number one: offering a home for rent at a below market price using an online site like Craigslist. The potential victim then calls the number and is instructed to drive by the house to see if they like it.

"There's usually an excuse why they can't show the inside, such as the landlord being out of town, in the hospital or transferred by the military," Kilpatrick said.

The victim then wires the deposit money, and that's the last they hear from the scammer.

California Real Estate Commissioner Wayne Bell says consumers need to be aware of the problem in order to protect themselves.

"California consumers need to be continually on guard and cautious against those criminals, almost all unlicensed, who are trolling for victims," Bell said.

The San Diego District Attorney's office, U.S. Attorney's office and other partners were also present at the press conference.

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis warned that rental scammers are hard to catch.

"These types of crimes are nearly impossible to prosecute. In the majority of complaints our office gets, the swindler isn't in San Diego, they're oftentimes in a foreign country or overseas," Dumanis said. "This means that it's very difficult to catch them, to prosecute them, to get your money back."

SDAR's stickers also include contact information for the District Attorney's office, along with the listing agent's phone number and the web address for the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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