The rental property scams online are a growing criminal trend, with perpetrators running them from within the county and overseas, according to district attorney's office spokesman Sean Webby.
Some of the posters, who use home and apartment rental websites such as Trulia.com, do not own or are not authorized to rent the places and are simply in business to steal deposit money, Webby said.
While most online postings for rentals are genuine, consumers should be wary of advertised rental amounts that are too low compared to similar housing in the area, Webby said.
Rental applicants should not pay anything unless they first go inside the property up for rent and to use a credit card for the deposits because card charges may be cancelled for a limited time if a problem is detected, Webby said.
Prospective renters should also avoid wiring deposit money to anyone, Webby said.
The district attorney's office recommends checking the name of the owner of the rental and make sure it is the same person on the lease agreement, Webby said.
Consumers should also find out if the mortgage is in default and if the rental property is actually up for sale, Webby said.
Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by a rental scam may contact the district attorney's Real Estate Fraud Hotline at (408) 792-2879.