A professional scammer recently tried turning a real for sale listing of a local home into a bogus rental listing to cheat people out of their cash.
When Don Martin of Torrey Mountain Properties posted a listing of a Jasper home for sale on the First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS) site, he hoped to sell the home quickly.
Two weeks later the home’s information showed up on another website as a rental -- unknown to the home’s owners or the realtor.
When a potential renter inquired about the bogus rental listing, they received an email saying they had been chosen to rent the home. All they needed to do was send in the first month’s rent and the deposit, Martin said.
“The scammers took the legitimate information in the for sale listing and then they created a rental listing based on that,” Martin said. “They copied the description and took pictures off the real website.”
Martin said the scammers advertised the home with a very low rent and deposit.
“The rent was very low for that house and the security deposit was only about $500 so it made the property look really, really attractive,” Martin said.
When one man made contact via the bogus ad, Martin said the man received an email back from the scammers congratulating him on being selected.
“The scammers tried to make arrangements for him to send the first month’s rent and deposit and the man became suspicious,” Martin said. “He asked for a physical address to send the money to and that’s where the conversation ended. He didn’t get a call back after that.”
Martin said the scammers likely wanted the man to give a credit card number over the phone or wire the money into an account.
“If the scammer works several scams then they just need to get one person a day to send them money. If you get just one a day you can rack up quite a bit. $1,500 a day is a good bit of money.”
The website where the fake ad showed up is trovit.com. The website says it is a search engine for classified ads of real estate, jobs, cars and vacation rentals.
“Trovit looks like a legitimate site so it’s entirely possible somebody posted the false information and hoped to get some folks trapped in that way,” Martin said.
Martin said the number for the scammer had a 502 area code so it was a number from the United States.
City of Jasper Police Chief Greg Lovell said his department doesn’t see this type of scam often, but it does happen.
Martin, however, said he has seen a couple of instances where scammers have tried using real estate listings to scam people.
“It happened several years ago with Craigslist. There for a while people on Craigslist would take real listings and create bogus listings to try and get people to respond to the fake ad.”
Martin said he doesn’t use Craigslist anymore.
“Once, several years ago, we had a person who tried to purchase a property sight-unseen for full price and wanted to send a certified check directly to the closing attorney. Of course you just don’t send $250,000 sight-unseen. It turns out that was a bogus deal when we investigated,” Martin said.
He said it’s best to be on your toes and know there are people out there looking to make an illegal buck off unsuspecting folks.
“You hear it all the time but when something sounds too good to be true it usually is,” he said. “The best advice I can give is when looking at real estate, it’s best to use a local realtor. They know the market and they know what’s real.”
Cpl. Andrew Cochran with the city of Jasper police department said he is aware of scams like this one.
“I’ve heard of them where people will tell someone they are on vacation and can’t be there to show them the home but they could drive by the property and check it out. Then they tell them if they’ll go ahead and send them the money, they’ll tell them where the key is hidden and they can move on in,” Cochran said.
Cochran said the best advice is to meet the person face to face and if you don’t know the individual, don’t send them money.