The Turlock Police Department has issued a warning for residents about a rental scam that has been making the rounds online in January.
Over the course of the month the police department took five reports of rental fraud that were eventually linked by an investigator to one individual, who lives outside the United States.
The scammer was posting local properties on social media and other third-party rental websites as being for rent, but in reality, the properties were already occupied and/or not for rent, according to the police department.
At least with the five cases reported to the police department, the victims lost significant amounts of money to the scammer.
"The Turlock Police Department wants to remind everyone to be cautious when sending money over the internet, through third party apps or websites," the department said in a news release. "When looking for places to rent, be sure to use reputable companies or websites and/or thoroughly research the person and the rental property.
"As a final reminder, a red flag when it comes to online scams is when payment is requested in any form of a gift cards."
Anyone who has been the victim of an online fraud the police department recommends letting the website know of the fraudulent post by flagging it and to make a police report either online here: https://ci.turlock.ca.us/policedepartment/crime/reportacrime/ or by calling Dispatch at (209) 668-1200 for non-emergencies and 9-1-1 for emergencies.