MADISON, Wis. — The Madison Police Department is cautioning Madison residents about a new rental scam circulating widely in the city.

Individuals reporting the fraud have said that they’ve been scammed into sending money electronically to “landlords” to rent a property. However, they later found out that the property did not exist, was unavailable to rent, or the person they were speaking with neither owned nor managed the property.

Considering the recent scam, the MPD offered the following tips.

Encourage in-person contact, or be mindful of identity

Making contact in-person allows someone to see the actual apartment and review the lease with a property manager on-scene. If unable to meet in person, be in contact with those that are authorized to lease the apartments. It can be done by going through online reviews or company websites to verify they’re connected to the leasing office.

And if in contact via phone, check the area code. If it isn’t a 608 area code, it’s likely not a Madison-area property owner.

Be mindful of apartment details

If the apartment is listed at a price that doesn’t compare to market value, it may not be a legitimate rental. Be mindful of price while searching for apartments.

Exercise caution with people you meet online

Fraudsters often target online social apps and websites, developing rapport with victims prior to getting them to send money. They’ll also try to create a sense of urgency to pressure others to pay larger amounts of money. Until confident about who the person is, be cautious.

The MPD also reminded residents that if they experience fraud, they can report them to the Federal Trade Commission, as these scams often occur across state lines.