A growing number of real estate rental scam victims prompts Stafford Police to issue a warning. Police Lieutenant Thomas Dellane says he knows of at three people already who have been scammed out of thousands of dollars by International criminals. "People are responding to ads primarily on Craig's List, for houses that are for rent, usually at a lower than market rate value and the person with the ad is indicating they're stationed out of the country and are asking people to send a Western Union or money order."

Dellane says the criminals often give a detailed story of the owner being relocated for work or is on an extended vacation around the world and is subsequently renting the property. He says they're also using information from legitimate ads originated by the property owners themselves. "They're going on the internet and doing some research for houses that are actually for sale. They take that ad. They take the pictures from that ad. They take the information from that ad and they create their own rental ad."

Dellane says once the scam artist establishes contact with a victim, they instruct them to send the first month's rent as well as the security deposit to an address outside the U.S.

He recommends that you:

Consult with local Realtors

  • Printout the ad and all important information
  • Ask the person you negotiate with for their credentials, i.e. Realtor, homeowner, etc.
  • Avoid cash exchanges. It is recommended that you make your payments by means of check or major credit cards dealing with third parties.
  • Ask neighbors if they are familiar with the homeowners.

Detective Sergeant Cindy Boyd with the Ocean County Prosecutors Office says the majority of these scams are perpetrated outside the country and its hard to catch the person's who are behind them because it's anonymous. She says surprisingly, she hasn't heard of a large number of people falling for it but she says that may be because people are too embarrassed to report the crimes.

Police say if you have suffered a loss as a victim of a scam, or if you have any questions with regard to scams, you should contact your local and county authorities or call Stafford Township Police Department at 609-597-8581