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Sonora, CA — Tuolumne County Sheriff’s officials warn of a property renting scam hitting the Mother Lode using the internet to copy a legitimate rental website.

The Sheriff’s office was alerted to the swindle by a county property management company reporting that someone using the name of “Amos Bradford” had copied their original website and posted it as his own.

Sgt. Andrea Benson explains, “The prospective renter was contacted by ‘Amos Bradford’ via text messages. The phone number associated with ‘Amos’ has an out of California area code. ‘Amos’ offered deep discounts to the renter if he/she would prepay rent.” She adds that when a deputy investigated the scam, he found numerous other real estate websites with the same contact name and phone number. Unsurprisingly, Sgt. Benson recounts, ‘”Amos’ would never answer any calls — the only communication was through text messages.”

Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department provides these scam prevention tips:

  • Always be aware of requests to send cash or money orders. Be wary of any person who attempts to get you to sign a lease or handover a substantial amount of money on the spot.
  • Look at property with the realtor or property management company and ask for identification. Sign a lease in person after you view the property and request copies of everything you sign. Never pay a security deposit or payments with cash. This makes it harder to track.
  • Conduct basic research. Google the address of the apartment or home and also the landlord’s name and the name of the management company. Look for red flags and inconsistencies.
  • If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Prevention is always far better than trying to recover from fraud after-the-fact.
  • If you fall victim to a rental scam make a report with law enforcement and give them as much information as possible.
  • Contact the publisher/ company behind the ad and let them know what happened.
  • If you become the victim of a rental scam in the United States consider reporting it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Federal Consumer Protection Agency. 1-877-382-4357 (1-877-FTC-HELP).
  • Share your story with friends, family — and as many people as you can to help prevent others from falling victim to the same or a similar scam.