Police: New scam targets potential renters

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Craigslist has been littered with scams for years now. Now, it seems scammers have taken to more reputable sites, like Zillow, to swindle people out of thousands.

Noblesville’s Carolyn Fox had found the perfect place. She spotted a four bedroom, two and a half bath home in Noblesville available to rent immediately.

“It had an actual realtor’s sign, with a realtor’s name on it. It was on Zillow,” said Fox.

Fox emailed through the standard contact link given on the website. In a quick response, the supposed landlord said his realtor was getting too expensive and had “decided to rent it out myself, that is why you can see the advert on Craigslist. But he still has his sign outside.”

“I was told I’d have the keys to the home on that day by 3 p.m.,” said Fox.

The man said he needed a $1,900 down payment. Fox was hesitant and then got this text message:

Bank Transfer. Am trying to make everything possible for you to move in today. If you not comfortable you can look elsewhere. No one is forcing you to rent from us.

Fox replied, “Oh, I know -just want to be safe. I’m looking into Western Union.”

She took the bait and sent a $1,900 moneygram.

“I mean, that was supposed to go so I could put something down for a home and get moved in and have some place to live. And it’s gone,” said Fox.

“It’s gone. Unfortunately, we’re doing some further investigation through Craigslist.  (We have) Subpoenad some records, but we’re finding is that these are overseas people that are doing this,” said ISP Sergeant Rich Myers, Dist. 52.

These scammers appear to use legit sale listings and convert them into rental listings. They then use the legitimate homeowner’s name to create a fake email account.

Sgt. Myers says if it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Unfortunately for Fox, all she can hope for is that it doesn’t happen to someone else.

As for Fox, she says she will “just keep working and save as much as I can. I’m just still looking, still looking for a home,” said Fox.

Sgt. Myers says never wire money in this kind of circumstance because it can’t be traced. If you have any questions or sense a red flag, you’re encouraged to contact the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

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