Iowa realtor urges caution for potential tenants after experience with rental scam

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 6:45 AM CDT
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AMES, Iowa (WOI) - A realtor in Ames is sending a warning to potential tenants to be on the look out for scams.

Misty Metschke, a realtor with Hunziker and Associates, said she was shocked when she received calls and messages about a home her client had listed for sale being falsely advertised for rent.

Metschke said once she found the postings listed on Facebook marketplace, she reported them.

She told Local 5 scams are something she hadn’t had to deal with for years. For Metschke, what made this scam so different was the complexity of the scheme.

“The scammer [created] a fake email address with the real sellers’ name in a Gmail address,” Metschke said. “Making it seem actually kind of legitimate.”

She said one of the people in contact with the scammer shared an email they received with her, and the red flags were clear.

The would-be tenant told Metschke they were glad they noticed the bad grammar, researched the property and found Metschke’s number before deciding to give up any money.

Better Business Bureau Iowa President Chris Coleman said rental scams are a problem for Iowans and others around the country.

The BBB started noticing those types of scams increasing once the housing market began to shift, according to Coleman.

Coleman said they have received lots of calls from people telling them about this type of scam.

However, he said the most troubling aspect of the scam is what scammers gain.

“They’re getting your personal information that can be used in a really expensive, bad way,” Coleman said. “Honestly, the amount is significant.”

In 2021, the FBI reported 11,578 people reported losing $350,328,166 due to rental schemes. That’s a 64% increase from 2020.

In order to void scams like the one Metschke’s clients caught, Coleman recommends a few tips to stay safe:

  1. Research the property. Look at the address and see if it pops up in other cities or states.
  2. Look at similarly-priced homes. If the home doesn’t align in terms of quality or size, be careful.
  3. Don’t exchange large sums of money over apps. You never know who you are sending it to.

To report instances of scamming or fraud, you can share any information you know to the BBB’s self-reporting portal.