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After striking a deal — typically by email or phone — renters are asked for payment up front.

Scammers then follow with phone calls or other emails — posing as that agent, a title company, real estate attorney or the seller of property that’s slated for settlement — to funnel funds to their bank accounts.In addition to lost payments, renters risk identity theft from disclosures they have made on fake application forms. Usually, scammers pose as would-be tenants for vacation or permanent rentals, then sending advance checks in amounts greater than the agreed rent or security deposit.Citing a “mix-up” a day or so later, they ask that the difference be returned ASAP.Google names, contact information, property locations and even chunks of descriptive text from advertisements or responses to ads; if you find duplication elsewhere, assume it’s a scam.Try to deal in person — not solely over the phone or email — and before exchanging money, get copies of driver’s licenses that can be cross-checked with the property ownership records.

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