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House-Hunting: Beware the Pitfalls of Surfing the Web

The Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs recommends people use caution when seeking rental property from individuals, particularly on Craigslist, after reports of scams. (midvale/morguefile)
The Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs recommends people use caution when seeking rental property from individuals, particularly on Craigslist, after reports of scams. (midvale/morguefile)
June 8, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Perusing the classifieds in the Sunday paper for a rental property is becoming less common, as Tennesseans turn to websites for their searches.

But the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs warns not all listings are legitimate. Claire Marsalis, assistant director of communications and marketing, says her department is concerned about scammers turning to Craigslist to make a quick buck.

"Remember the age-old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says Marsalis. "If there's a listing you see on Craigslist, that just sounds like a great deal and the price is just a steal, then your red flag should go up and you need to definitely research that, and probably avoid something like that."

She says it's a warning sign if the property owner won't agree to meet you in person and asks you to wire money or provide personal information.

There also are reports of unsuspecting owners having their property listed for rent by scammers, who accept security deposits and applications from people believing they're renting an available property.

Marsalis says there are other signals that a listing may not be legitimate. They include reading between the lines and even the letters in an ad.

"You just have to read the listing carefully, sometimes typos or grammatical errors can be another red flag, and people can see that and know that might indicate a scam that way," she says. "So, we just encourage Tennesseans just to research everything the advertisement mentions."

For these types of online searches, she suggests using sites that require people to create a profile that allows for reviews and feedback. Some even offer their own level of protection for renters.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN