McHenry County sheriff's officials are alerting the public to rental property scams that are just beginning to surface.
The scam, they say, works like this: A prospective tenant spots an Internet listing for a rental property with a deal that's too good to be true, but it requests one month's rent and in some cases, a security deposit. The would-be tenant sends the money but is rebuffed when he or she tries to meet the "landlord."
The "landlord" eventually offers a laundry list of excuses as to why he or she can't meet the prospective tenant, including living out of the country or out of the state or making a recent move and that required a quick property listing.
But in reality, the "landlord" has marketed a house for rent that wasn't theirs and swiped your deposit, Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said.
"They get the money, and they're gone," he said.
Police have seen only two instances of the scam in the county but have yet to make any arrests, Zinke said.
In the meantime, the sheriff's office hopes to arm residents with the information they need to avoid being scammed.
"We're just trying to launch a pre-emptive notice -- an education piece," Zinke said.
Things to watch out for include:
• A listing that wasn't made through a realtor or management agency.
• A "landlord" who gives multiple excuses as to why he or she can't meet you in person.
• A listing with a price that seems too good to be true.
• An advertisement posted by someone who lives out of the state or the country.
• Being asked to wire money before you have even seen the property.
• A property that's still occupied.
Zinke says you should do extensive research on the property before you put any money down. But If you think you've been scammed, please call the police.