State Warns Of Rental Scams Following Tornadoes

Wednesday, June 5th 2013, 8:59 pm
By: News 9

State officials are warning of rental property scams following the recent Oklahoma tornadoes. The con artists are taking advantage of people displaced by the deadly storms, according to the Oklahoma attorney general.

With thousands of people displaced, victims are flooding apartment complexes and CraigsList. They're vulnerable and acting on emotion. Experts say they need to take the time to do their homework.

"I feel almost sick to my stomach that people would do this to people when they're down," Oklahoma City attorney David Slane said.

Slane says there are three important things people must do before sending money to someone claiming to be the landlord for a property. If the person claims to be a realtor, contact the realtor association to check. If they say they own the property, check online with the county assessor's office. Also, meet the person face-to-face. Even ask to see their ID.

Moore resident Chris DeWitt could have been a victim of a rental scam, but he did not take the bait.

Complete Coverage: May 2013 Tornado Outbreak

"[The con artist] asked us to wire him $800, and he would FedEx the keys to us the next day," DeWitt said.

The state says overseas criminals will post legitimate properties online to rent and the money flows in.

"These people are down," Slane said. "They've been victims once. Now they're being re-victimized."

Other scams include price gouging. Apartment complexes and property owners are not allowed to raise rates because of natural disasters.

Finally, if you are a victim in any of these scams, don't keep quiet. Call the police, attorney general's office and the real property owner.

To file a complaint with the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, call (405) 521-2029.