Online scam is using local listings to steal your money

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - If you are in the market to rent or buy a home there is some news you need to know before browsing online.

Online housing scams are alive and well and it is causing local realtors a headache.

Jack Browne, a realtor with Re/Max in Wichita Falls, began receiving phone calls about one of his listings in late December.

The callers were claiming they had spoken to the owner about renting a home in the 2400 clock of Talunar Lane.

Problem was, the owner of the home was Browne's wife and the home was for sale, not for rent.

"The crooks have been known to hijack pictures, videos, whatever it may be, from realtors websites or real listings and use those, and post that property as a property that's for rent," Monica Horton, President of the BBB said.

That is exactly what happened to Browne. A property he is listing ended up on Craigslist. The scammer was posing as a man from Portland, Oregon and he had a convincing story.

"He'd taken the keys with him. He'd had an argument with his realtor and the realtor wouldn't take the signs down and his lawyer had advised him not to work with that realtor. So, he said the house is no longer for sale, it's only for rent," Browne said.

The crook was asking for a down payment and first month's rent that totaled $1,200.

He wanted the cash to be wired to him and then he would send the keys to the new renters.

"That should be a red flag. Do not wire any money, regardless of why they say they're outside the United States or why they say they need that money wired," Horton said.

To date, no one has fallen victim to the fake listing on Talunar Lane. But it is a scenario Browne does not want to see someone go through.

"I take care of a lot of people that are moving from one rental house to another and to lose your deposit and to lose your first month's rent is going to put a lot of these people in a tough financial situation," Browne said.

There is little to nothing that can be done to stop these fake listing from popping up.

Horton said to always do your research on any listing you find online, and it is always better to work with someone face-to-face when renting or buying a home.

Another thing you can do is put the listing in an online search engine. If it is posted anywhere else you should be able to see it. If there is more than one listing from more than one person, it is likely a scam.

The best piece of advice, if the listing seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This is also a scam that is used for vacation properties as well.

If you want to report this scam or see scams near you, take a look at the BBB Scam Tracker.

Samantha Forester, Newschannel 6

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