Brad Krueger moved to Fort Wayne from Chicago about six months ago, and he’s been looking to rent or buy a house in the southwest part of town.
One way he’s been shopping around is by going to real estate websites, and he’s run into something surprising.
He keeps stumbling across bogus listings.
This is nothing new. We’ve written about this in the past, where people hijack legitimate listings of homes for sale and post them on Craigslist as rentals.
It’s worrisome for homeowners because they fear that people who get scammed might take out their fury by vandalizing the house.
We’ve even written about victims of the scam, people who have actually wired rent payments and security deposits to bogus landlords.
What surprised Krueger, though, is that some of the bogus listings were showing up not on Craigslist but on popular real estate websites that real estate agents use.
I’ve been running into a lot, three or four in just the last two or three weeks, Krueger said.
He’d find a listing on one site offering a house for rent, only to find it was a fraudulent listing, a copy of a similar listing of a house for sale on another website.
In one case, he said he found a legitimate rental listing on one site, but a copy of the rental with a different contact on another site.
Some people don’t understand why anyone would bother to put bogus listings.
The racket works this way. Someone takes photos from a legitimate real estate listing, posts them on a different website and offers the place for rent.
The story is usually that they are a missionary who is going to be out of the country for a couple of years, or that they are a preacher who has been called to a new church in some other part of the country, and their home hasn’t sold, so they are going to rent it out.
They throw in a few God bless yous to make themselves sound upstanding and persuade their victims to wire them a security deposit and a couple of months’ rent and promise to send the keys by courier within a day or two.
The money disappears, and the keys never come.
Krueger doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who would fall for one of the scams.
There’s no way he would rent a house without being able to go inside and look it over, he says, and if he’s not dealing with a local agent, he isn’t interested.
That’s good advice for people looking into renting property.
It’s also good advice to pay attention if there’s a for-sale sign in front of a house that showed up as for rent in an online listing.
People who list bogus rental properties will sometimes tell potential marks to ignore any for-sale sign in a house’s yard.
They’ll claim that they fired their real estate agent and the agent hasn’t even bothered to pick up the sign.
A good rule of thumb might be that while it’s OK to buy boots online, when you’re dealing with housing, it’s wise to shop local.