Rental Rip-off Pt.2: How to protect yourself

COLUMBIA (WACH)-If you're looking to rent a home for the summer or just not quite ready to buy, make sure you do your research.

"The way scammers lure you in is by giving you a great deal, says Juliana Harris with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.

Harris says this time of year the internet is filled with scammers ready to take advantage of you online.

So once you've found what looks to be a great rental deal, what do you do next?

"Look up the owner of the house through the register of deeds in the county that the house is located," Harris says, "that will let you know if the person corresponding with you is the actual owner of the house."

Many listings are high-jacked from people out of the country

"So they don't speak English very well," says Harris, "so they're gonna want to just talk to you through email or text messaging. Its really important to get someone on the phone."

If you see more than one listing for the same property there's a chance one is a fake.

Harris says, "because a lot of times you'll find the real listing and you'll see the real price which is usually double."

What if money and payment come into the conversation?

"Anytime someone is asking for money or wire transfer you want to take a step back and reconsider," says Harris, "because wire transfers are pretty much instantaneous. The money goes directly to the scammer and that's why they choose it. And nine times out of ten you're not going to get your money back."

Harris says a growing scam that could be used to collect payment for a house rental are, "Green Dot money Pack cards. They'll tell you to go get a prepaid reloadable debit card that you can buy at CVS or most retailers and then they'll ask you for the number on the back of the card and you think you you don't even realize it."

So even though the internet is a great tool and technology moves so fast, remember, Harris says, "scammers are able to use it just the same as we are."