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Scammers are hijacking homes listed for sale and targeting renters

With rents skyrocketing, many renters are looking for rental homes over apartments. But scammers have already caught on.

Rent prices are up, so it's no surprise that many renters are looking for a good deal on rental homes over an apartment.

But scammers are finding ways to trick people into sending cash for homes that aren't even available for rent.

Michele Parks found her dream home on Craigslist. She was ready for her new home without knowing she was about to fall victim to a rental scam.

"It's beautiful! I have two grandkids who would have loved it," Parks said. "I looked up Craigslist, I found this house, $1,000 a month...nothing is $1,000 a month."

So she texted the landlord, who gave her the home's address.

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When Parks pulled up to the house and saw it all freshly painted and landscaped, she knew it had been what she was waiting for.

She wasn't bothered by the Realtor sign out front, figuring the landlord either wanted to sell it or rent it.

"I assume he had it on the market for so long, that he now wanted to rent it," Parks said.

The landlord told Parks he was out of town, but would send her a key after she wired a $1,000 deposit.

Once she sent the money, she never heard from him again.

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All the interior photos of the home were stolen from the home's legitimate for sale listing online.

The Federal Trade Commission says rental scams are all too common.

"Scammers have hijacked the email account of the property owner on a reputable website or they've changed the email address," attorney Christopher Brown said.

Brown says it may be a scam if you're told to wire money or pay with gift cards, if the landlords wants a security deposit or rent before signing a lease, or if the landlord says they're out of the country.

To avoid being scammed, Brown also suggests to compare the price of the place you're looking at to other rentals in the area.

"Ask yourself, 'Is this rent a lot less than comparable rentals?' That could be a red flag," Brown said.

The key here is to never send money if you haven't gone inside the home, apartment, or met the landlord, so you don't waste your money.

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