Madison police say they are being ‘inundated’ with reports of rent scams

MADISON, Wis. — Madison police say they are currently being ‘inundated’ with fraud complaints about rental scams across the city.

The department said Thursday morning that they have received numerous calls from people who were scammed into sending money to people claiming to be landlords for rental properties. The people who sent the money later found out either the person they have been talking to doesn’t manage the rental they were interested in — or the property doesn’t exist at all.

Police say they want to remind people that it’s always best to do some research before renting or buying an apartment or home.

To protect yourself, they recommend setting up in-person meetings to see the apartment and review a possible lease with the property manager before you commit any money. They also recommend using online reviews to look into the history and background of property managers and check the phone number of the person claiming to be the property manager — if the number doesn’t start with a local area code, they are likely not from the Madison area.

It’s also a good idea to compare the proposed price of the apartment or home to others in the area. If it seems unusually low, it could be a sign that the posting is not legitimate.

Police say from their experience in getting these types of fraud reports, the people running the scam will often target social media apps and websites and spend time messaging with possible victims to build a rapport before convincing them to send money, and try to create a sense of urgency to try to convince people to send the money quickly.

If you think you’re being targeted by someone posing as a landlord or have been a victim of a rental property scam, police say you should report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, since those fraud schemes frequently cross state lines.