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Realtor says her listing was used in a Pasco County rental scam

Posted at 6:50 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 18:50:28-04

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- A 2-bedroom, 2-bath home in Hudson is now decked out in fair warnings.

“I put them inside the house, I put them on the outside — just to show that this house is for sale and not for rent,” said Jennifer Verge, a realtor with Remax.

She’s doing her best to keep someone else from handing over money to someone on Craigslist after a 73-year-old woman thought her $700 deposit was securing her spot as the new renter of the house.

She’s like, 'Are you the realtor for this property?' I said yes I am, I said, unfortunately, it’s under contract,” Verge said. “She said, 'Well what does that mean? I’m renting it, I signed the lease and everything!'”

The woman e-mailed over a copy of the lease and the e-mail threads she exchanged with the person claiming to be the owner.

“She saw all of the pictures on the property on Craigslist,” Verge said.

The Better Business Bureau says she is one of nearly 5 million people who have fallen victim to this type of scam.

Verge says a second person called after driving by the house and seeing the “for sale” sign.

A copy of one e-mail thread shows how textbook it really is.

“The scammer will then create a false sense of urgency, telling you that others are interested so you must act immediately. They will ask for a security deposit and/or first month’s rent to reserve the property. The scammer may claim that you can see the property through a rental agent – only after you pay the deposit. In some versions, the “landlord” will require prospective tenants to complete an application form, which asks for personal details like Social Security number. No matter the details, once you send the money the result is the same. The “landlord” will stop responding to messages and disappear. Your new home never existed.”

“Rent is expensive, especially around here and she thought it was a great deal,” said Verge.

Which the BBB says is another red flag.

“I felt so bad for her. I kept contacting her and just making sure she had gotten her money back, and she did. So her bank did give her money back,” she said.

Verge says the person was even using the actual homeowner's name in the e-mail.

ABC Action News called the number listed on the e-mail and they followed up with a text. Our questions went unanswered after that.

The BBB did a recent study on these types of scams.

The BBB says here are tips to avoid these types of scams:

  • Watch out for deals that are too good. Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, and a great location. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
  • Search online for similar properties. Do a quick search for the listing, scammer’s email address, or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.
  • See the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.