Crooks scam victims looking for rental houses

Published: Mar. 12, 2012 at 11:36 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2012 at 1:45 AM EDT
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WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - A scam trying to swipe cash from your pocket is popping up in the Lowcountry. Crooks are taking houses that are for sale and putting them online as rentals hoping to rip people off.

It didn't take long for a house on Baycreek Drive west of the Ashley to generate interest. A Lowcountry woman saw it advertised for rent on Zillow, an online real estate database.

"At first I thought it was a real good deal. He was only asking for like $1,200 a month which included utilities," Deborah said.

Deborah said the owner wrote to her in emails that the home was for rent because his company transferred him to Salem, Ore. and he didn't want to sell the house.

"He gave me a lot of information about the neighborhood, the house, what was to be included," Deborah said.

Then Deborah said something strange happened.

"Immediately he started asking for a deposit to be mailed to him which I didn't quite understand," Deborah said.

She didn't understand because she hadn't yet seen the inside of the house. When Deborah went to look at the house from the outside, she saw a for sale sign.

"I decided to call Ms. Richard and asked her about the house and she said this house is not for rent, it is for sale," Deborah said.

Georgia Richard is the real estate agent for the actual owner of the house.

"Apparently they are Internet savvy," Richard said.

Richard said the scam artist apparently got the owner's name and information from the multiple listing service used by realtors and used that information for the phony rental ad.

Deborah said she checked Zillow a couple of days ago and saw the fake rental ad had been taken down.

Georgia Richard said she found the ad on several other sites, had those ads flagged and then also taken down.

Experts say you should never give out your personal information when answering an ad on the Internet. If you suspect an ad is a scam, you can report it to your local FBI office.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.