Mercer County forms task force to fight back against rental scams

TRENTON (WPVI) -- Officials in Mercer County are teaming up to fight rental scams in the Trenton area.

A new task force is taking aim at both bogus landlords, and tenants.

Desperate to quickly find housing for she and her toddler, Brittany Stevenson located an apartment to rent in Trenton through an online broker, but wound up losing more than $2,000 when she was scammed by a phony rental agent.

"The landlord never owned the property. It was a fake, bogus lease," she said. "I lost all my furniture, clothes everything and money. I had to go to court making me look bad like I'm the one that's not paying in. You never really owned the property and I'm giving you money to some guy who doesn't even own it."

There are lots of Stories like Brittany's.

"We have so many foreclosed homes. People are coming in and taking advantage of them," said Brian Hughes, Mercer County Executive.

Mercer county formed a task force to fight this kind of fraud. To make it more difficult for scammers to take over vacant or abandoned properties, the county clerk's office will be offering a free property alert service.

"People who are scamming a lot of these individuals into believing they are either in a rental property they own and they don't or they are seller of a property that they don't own," said Trenton Mayor, Eris Jackson.

"Anytime somebody tries to record a lien on your property, a construction lien or any type of activity on your property, you'll get an email," said Mercer County Clerk, Paula Sollani Covello.

There's a new hotline that victims can call to get help if they've been scammed and a package of five bills is being introduced in the state legislature that will protect tenants from imposter landlords who take their money and disappear. If you have fallen victim to this scam, call 609-989-6470.

Officials say you've got to do your homework and make sure the person renting or selling to you is legitimate and they point to the old adage if the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is.
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