The 13abc Action News I-Team is shedding light on a scam that's bringing a whole new meaning to "too good to be true". Your dream of getting into a gorgeous new home, at a price that will feel like a steal, is turning out to be a scam.
It's all starting on the internet. Realtors are putting up home sale listings on their websites, or other real estate sites trying to entice buyers. It turns out crooks are being enticed, looking for people looking for a deal.
They follow up with emails like that say, for example, they can't show you the inside of the home because they took the keys with them on their missionary trip to Africa. All part of a deal that never truly exists.
Mary Terrill could not believe her eyes when for just $1000 a month, she found the perfect place to live.
"Boy this is right in the middle of our price range. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, the thing went on on and on and I got thinking this is too good to be true," said Terrill when she saw the ad.
The problem was that she found this listing on craigslist. Not exactly the most reputable real estate listing service.
"The internet and especially craigslist can easily be manipulated. People, who are older, don't understand how easy it is to invent, cut, paste and create something that looks real, but it's fake," said Dick Eppstein with the Better Business Bureau.
Eppstein is hearing more and more about this scam but even more are not reporting it. Scammers go to legit web pages, copy the photos, make a new listing on craigslist. But this time the home is listed for rent, not purchase.
"It's terribly frustrating for everyone because there are people out there who think they have legitimately rent this property and we're telling them no you can't and they're having a tough time understanding that disconnect because it really truly is a scam," said Jim Mangas with Remax Preferred.
"We've had situations where people are moving in, they've paid the fees and now they're here to move in and people don't know what they're talking about," said Eppstein.
Mary almost bit when the scammer returned her emails but she noticed something.
"The trick for me was the grammar, them not being able to write a decent letter and let people know what their idea is, and how they're expressing themselves," said Terrill.
Sometimes the scammer is a little more direct.
"They're saying they're having trouble with their realtor, that their realtor is not cooperating with them wanting to rent the property. And for that reason, do not contact the agent," Mangas says from his experience with these scammers.
The final red flag is when they want a deposit before checking your credit, especially if they want you to western union or wire the money.
Your best bet it to stop by the place before paying any money. Look for a sign on the lawn, then call the realtor on that sign and get the real deal on what's happening with the property.