By Alan Bligh

Within seconds of searching the Internet, potential home renters can find all the information they need about a possible new home.

The Better Business Bureau warns renters to be on the lookout for phony ads on Craigslist and other Internet services aimed at stealing money. Consumers typically fall victim to these scams after responding to an online classified for a non-existent rental property.

Victims say they are asked by the supposed landlord to wire money for the deposit and first month's rent in order to receive the keys to the rental home. When asked if the renters can view the property prior to wiring money, the landlords claim to be out of the country and unable to show the house. The victim, of course, will lose all of their money.

This scam unfortunately continues to be alive and well in the Coastal Bend region.

There are few things more distressing than walking to where you parked your car and realizing it isn't there. Complaints against towing companies have risen 55 percent in the past 12 months and BBB advises the following if your car is towed:

Contact the towing company immediately.

Retrieve your car as quickly as possible. Many towing companies include a storage fee based on the amount of time a vehicle remains in their facility.

Inspect your vehicle before leaving. Make sure there is no damage from the tow and any items you had in the vehicle are accounted for. Take pictures for proof in case you need to fill out an incident report.

Ask for a detailed receipt. Avoid paying with cash. Use a credit card if possible - not a debit card.

As the unemployment rate remains high, desperate job seekers need to be extra careful not to get sucker punched by bogus help wanted ads. Recent job scams lure victims with phony data entry job listings on Craigslist. Those who respond to these postings are contacted via email claiming to have been chosen for an interview. The email directs the chosen job seeker to follow a link where they have to provide their personal information. Ah! Identity theft at work.

Consumers need to learn how to spot warning signs of fake listings.

And remember; never, ever pay upfront fees. No credible job offer will ask a potential employee to foot the bill for background checks, credit reports or administrative fees before an interview. If in doubt-call us.

Speaking of identity theft, scammers have recently been using the names of Coastal Bend law firms to trick victims into giving out bank information, credit card numbers and other private information. Victims report receiving calls from individuals, using fake names and untraceable phone numbers. The callers say they work with locally based such-n-such Law Firm. The callers, who usually have a heavy accent, claim the firm is suing the victim on behalf of a lender. The callers go on to say the victim defaulted on a loan and demands payment and other personal information.

Hundreds of people around the country have reported falling victim to these types of scams. As usual the Better Business Bureau warns consumers against giving out personal information to unknown callers.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at