Local realtor helps foil rental scam - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Local realtor helps foil rental scam

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More than half a dozen house hunters in Fort Pierce are learning a rental home that caught their eye, and was priced at a steal, was too good to be true.

A Craigslist ad listed a home at 7103 Fort Walton Avenue for just $700 a month. It’s a 2 bed, 2 bath CBS home, with a new air conditioning unit, and located in a good neighborhood.

The only problem is the home is not really for rent. It’s going up to auction in less than 2 weeks.

“I was like okay wow this is a nice house,” one woman said, who saw the ad.

She did not want to be identified, but said she is pregnant and needs a new home for her family.

The price caught her eye immediately. She reached out to the creator of the ad who asked her for a $1400 security deposit.

“When I asked for the property information, they gave it to me,” she said.

She drove by the house to make sure she liked it before writing a check.

A sign in the yard said the house was going to auction later in March.

“I thought if they’re renting it, why are they auctioning it?”

Thankfully, she called the number on the sign to sort things out.

Real Estate Agent Marshall Copley answered the call.

“I always tell people if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Copley said.

The woman told him about the Craigslist ad, and he knew exactly which house she was talking about.

“When they said the price, that’s when I knew something was wrong.” He said the home should have been listed at $1000-$1100 per month.

He said he got a similar call multiple times.

“I’ve gotten about a 6 or 7 phone calls so far regarding the ad.”

The good news is that means people checked out the home, and saw the auction sign before sending any money.

But, the ad was otherwise believable. Even the name of the owner was accurate. However, Copley knows any scammer can find the name of an owner on the Property Appraiser’s website, and paste it into their post.

Copley called the true owner of the home to verify the ad was fake.

“She told me she had taken all the listings down from craigslist at least a year prior.”

The home hunters who contacted Copley saved $1400 from possibly being stolen. 

Now, he has a warning to anyone using Craigslist to find a rental home.

“Just do your due diligence. Make sure that you’ve gone into the property and confirmed they are the actual owners before you give anyone money,” Copley said.

If you can’t use a realtor, be sure to visit the property in person and go inside the home.

“Never send money to someone until you’ve been inside the house because people can be very deceptive. They can talk a good talk,” Copley said.

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