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Loudoun Co. Sheriff: Beware of online rental scams

Sunday - 9/30/2012, 8:16am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Finding a place to rent in the greater Washington region is not always easy. Many people use the internet to search for available homes. But now there's a scam to watch out for.

The owner offers a house for rent at a low price to potential renters. They are asked to send some background information for pre-approval and eventually asked to "wire" money for a deposit. The phone number involved and the address to send the money is often overseas.

The scam has turned up in Loudoun County where the sheriff's office is warning potential renters to steer clear of this offer. The house that is often pictured or advertised is not for rent.

Renters lose their deposit and the crook has personal information that could be even more damaging.

The sheriff's office says renters should never rent a home or apartment where the owner can't show the property before being asked to send a deposit. And they recommend always getting a business address from the owner.

A second more familiar scam has also turned up again in the region.

It involves an email or a letter saying the recipient has won a sweepstakes like the New York Lottery or an international lottery. The sender asks the recipient to send money to pay for taxes to collect their winnings.

That too is a scam.

It is not possible to win a lottery without entering. And winners are never asked to pay taxes before they collect winnings.

Anyone who has been a victim of either of these scams should call the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department at 703-7776-1021.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)