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Fairfield, CA Police Department
Friday February 24th, 2023 :: 12:30 p.m. PST


Victims Lose Money in Rental Scams; Fairfield Police Department Warns the Public

With advances in technology, there's been an increase in criminals posting rental listings to reputable sites in an attempt to trick potential renters out of their money.

Recently, a victim contacted Fairfield Police after sending an approximately $3,000 rental deposit via Zelle to a "realtor" for a property found on Zillow.

The victim filled out the "Request a Tour" form and was told through text that they could move in the next day. When the victim arrived at the property, they found the door unlocked and were told another family had just viewed the property. After conducting a self-tour and asking questions via telephone, the victim transferred money totaling around $3,000 for the application fee, rent and deposit. When the victim checked Zillow again, however, they saw the same home listed in another ad, for a higher amount, and realized they'd been scammed – prompting them to call police.

Days later, another person fell victim to the same scam. In that incident, the scammer was able to unlock and lock the property’s door remotely for a tour. The victim signed a rental agreement and sent a total of $3,450 over several transactions, before realizing they had been duped.

In cases like these, the listings may appear official, but there are usually several clues that give the scammers away:

• Scammers will try to get you to pay for a security deposit or move-in fee without seeing the rental unit. If you cannot get to the property to tour, at least request a real-time video walkthrough of the rental.
• Scammers will find every excuse not to meet you in person because they don’t want you to be able to identify them. They may claim to be overseas or to not live near the rental – which is another red flag. A legitimate landlord or realtor will make sure they, or a local representative/property manager, can meet you in person. They should want to get a feel for you as a renter (and you should want to get a feel for them as a landlord).
• Scammers will request a deposit before a lease has even been signed. A lease agreement is a contract – you are paying a deposit in exchange for the written promise that you will become a tenant. Never send money – via wire, mail or app - without having executed that promise first.
• Scammers will often request that deposits be made through apps like CashApp or Zelle.
• Watch out when the price seems to be too good to be true. Know the market you’re in and what you should expect to pay before even starting your search. Be wary when rental amounts appear to be disproportionate to what the market calls for – if extremely low, it’s probably a lure to get unsuspecting renters on the hook.
• As with any scam, watch out for obvious typos and grammatical errors. Serious landlords take their time when putting a listing together.

If you’re the victim of a rental scam in Fairfield, you have several options:
- Contact the Fairfield Police Department at (707)428-7300 or file a report file online
- Contact the listing website/report the listing so it can be taken down.
- You can also file a report with IC3 (, the Internet Crime Complaint Center that operates as the nation’s hub for reporting cyber-crime and is run by the FBI.

Fairfield, CA Police Department
1000 Webster St
Fairfield, CA 94533

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 707-428-7300

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