Online Scammers Posting Bogus Home Listings

Friday, September 20, 2013

 Kevin L. Hoover 


FOREST AVENUE – Realtor Stephany Joy was holding an open house at a home on Forest Avenue lst Sunday when a man showed up, all smiles. “I’m so glad it’s open,” the man said. “I’ve been talking to the seller.”

“No, you haven’t,” Joy informed the man.

The would-be homebuyer had been taken in by a false listing offering the house on Craiglist. The supposed seller, “David McCord,” sent the near-victim a faux-sincere e-mail message loaded with telltale misspellings detailing the house offer.

Fortunately, the man hadn’t forked over any money. Previous victims of local online realty scams haven’t been so lucky.

A fraudulent listing of a 13th Street home several years ago was even more audacious. The scammer actually changed the locks at the rental home, accepted first and last month’s rent from a victim, handed them the keys and disappeared with their money.

In this instance, Joy was able to alert the victim-in-the-making before any money changed hands. “He was pretty bummed out that it turned out to be a scam,” Joy said.

But likely not as bummed as another person in Sunny Brae, who recently wired $1,900 in rent and deposit money to Nigeria over a false Craigslist home listing.

This is the unedited message sent by the scammer to the victim:

“Hello, Thanks for your interest.I must confess that I am very very new in this landlord business.My name is David McCord ,I own the house located at (475 Forest Ave,Arcata, CA 95521)My lovely home is still available for lease and i want a responsible person or family who are neat and also believed that they have all what it takes to take care of the house as if it where there own. Please be informed that i am leasing the house because I was transferred from my place of work to Kokomo, IN and i came over with my lovely wife Shelia Maxine McCord because of the love I have for her and we shall be staying for at least 4 to 5 years before coming back to the house. I work as a Robotic Programmer & Welder/Fitter here in Decatur and got married to a lovely wife who is a member of Joyce Meyer Ministries.we both bought the house when we got married.We wanted to sell the house since we will be staying longer than we thought so we searched for an agent and getting upon getting one we stroked a deal but later my wife advised me not to sell the house anymore. I reasoned with her and accepted her advice so we contacted the agent back and requested for our keys and documents and put it for rent since we will back to the house in the next 4 to 5 years.We would have given the same agent this job also but the truth of the matter is that the agent was asking too much of an agent fee and also made the rent high.We were not getting the responses we needed so i decided to terminated our contract with them and put it up for rent ourselves.If you notice, you will discover that the price we are offering is far below standard price and this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the absolute care for the property.The house is available for as long as you want.The rent is $800 and $800 for Security Deposit For this 3BR/2BAth/ 1,650 sqft….Utilities such as Air Conditioner Dishwasher Walk-in Closet Refrigerator Vaulted Ceilings Washer/ Dryer Cable etc are all included in the rent.”

The message is followed by a form soliciting extensive personal information. It concludes with this caution:

“Please make sure this questions are filled correctly because the best way you answer with your comment will impress me the more to accept your application.”

After forwarding the message to APD at Joy’s urging, Officer Richard Bergstresser wrote the person back:

“Having read the text I suspect this is a scam aimed at possible renters – maybe an identity theft issue, maybe an attempt to get a deposit and disappear, likely both. If you notice anything like this again contact us and notify Craigslist right away,” Bergstresser wrote.

Joy has some advice for homebuyers. “If you’re renting from a private party, meet them in person,” she said. “Check their ID and match it against a water bill. How else are you going to know?”