COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Whether you’re searching for a place to call home for the first time, or looking to upgrade to a bigger space, be on the lookout for rental scams.

“Meet with the person. Don’t give them anything until you meet with them. Meet with them and make sure that they have a lease in hand and things like that, before any money exchanges,” said Catherine Krack.

That’s a lesson that Krack and her partner, Thomas Woods learned too late. Better Call 4 told you their story in February. The couple, scammed out of thousands of dollars while attempting to rent a home they found on Craigslist. But that listing turned out to be fake.

“Everything seemed legit,” said Krack. “With the exception of, we never met this person in person.”

Unfortunately, Catherine and Thomas aren’t the only ones to fall victim to scams like this. Kylie Moore conducted a study on behalf of Apartment Guide, based on data from the Better Business Bureau.

“We wanted to take a look and see where and when the most rental scams are occurring,” said Moore.
Columbus came in at number five, tied with Brooklyn and New York City.

“It seems like scammers are definitely going to those bigger cities, the more metropolitan areas are definitely breeding grounds for it,” said Moore.

When it comes to rental scams, Moore said it’s important to look for warning signs.

“You could see anything from asking for money, a money wire, a money transfer or even cash before you see the unit or the home, or, you’re only allowed to tour the outside of the building.”

The best way to protect yourself is to do your research.

“Investing the time and being careful. You may feel like you’re losing out on the apartment of a lifetime, but in reality, you’re actually protecting yourself from what is definitely too good to be true,” said Moore.

You should also use a reputable website for apartment hunting, but be on the lookout even more so at the times and places they’re likely to occur. According to the study, January actually sees the highest number of scams reported, but the summer months bring the biggest financial losses.