TONIGHT....AN ABC-6 NEWS INVESTIGATION....INTO A HOME RENTAL SCAM THAT IS NOW SWEEPING THE COUNTRY.
IF YOU FIND A PLACE TO RENT...WITH A PRICE THAT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE....WATCH OUT!
T'S NO SECRET THAT CON ARTISTS CAN BE FOUND IN ALL KINDS OF PLACES THESE DAYS INCLUDING THE INTERNET.
BUT THIS IS A NEW...AND GROWING SCAM.
IF YOU ARE IN THE PROCESS OF SELLING YOUR HOME...IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A HOME TO RENT...OR IF YOU ARE A REALTOR.....ALL ARE BEING TARGETED IN THIS SCAM.
HERE'S THE STORY, FROM EAST GREENWICH:
How would you like to rent this big, beautiful East Greenwich home...3 bedrooms; two bathrooms, a big yard, great schools and more. All for the low, low price of just 12 hundred dollars a month. What a steal!
"This particular home probably has a rental value of anywhere from 22 hundred to 24 hundred dollars a month. And it's listed at 12 hundred dollars. That's just 50 percent of the current value," said Mark Oltedale, the realtor selling the home.
The problem is, this is a total scam! The house is not for rent at all. It, IS for sale.
"Yeah you definitely want to be very cautious when you are going online and looking for rentals. You want to use legitimate websites," said Oltedale.
Mark Oltedale is the realtor selling this home. Unbeknownst to him....someone was trying to scam him, his client...and potential renters. Here's how it works. The scammers clone legitimate information and pictures of homes for sale, then post them as bargain basement rental units on the popular website Craigslist. The low, low price entices people to email what turns out to be a phony homeowner.
"In fact the prospect of renting this home proved so attractive that some people started showing up at the door, the applications filled out with all kinds of personal information, and that is a red flag," said ABC 6 Reporter Mark Curtis.
According to Keller Williams broker, and long time Rhode Island realtor Carl Coutu, "The big concern from your point of view, is identity theft."
The scammer requests that you fill out detailed a detailed application, and then email it back in. He also emails you about why his family must move..in this case to Alaska...and can't meet you in person. Eventually you are asked to wire money for rent and security deposits:
"You would never wire money. That would be totally suspect," said Coutu of Keller Williams.
We decided to see an expert opinion. Carl Coutu has been selling and managing Rhode Island real estate for 30 years. He was stunned by what we showed him:
"It's frightening because it's one more way that the consumers are being taken advantage of.They are copying everything about the property, right down to the very same words to describe the house. Q: Could you see how someone would fall for this scam? A: Absolutely, this is well done, said Coutu.
So well in fact that our East Greenwich homeowner had would-be renters coming by, even peeking in the windows:
According to her realtor, Mark Oltedale, "It was very uncomfortable for them to have strangers out in the yard, congregating in front of the house. And she felt somewhat intimidated and threatened by these unknown people on the property."
So, the police were called; all the locks were changed; and Craigslist removed the ad. Ultimately the home was sold, despite the rental rip-off scam.
NOW THERE HAS HAS BEEN AN EPIDEMIC OF THESE RENTALS SCAMS IN ATLANTA, PHOENIX, DALLAS AND TORONTO....BUT APPARENTLY THE CON IS JUST COMING TO RHODE ISLAND.
MARK CURTIS SPOKE WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE AND IT HAS NOT HAD ANY COMPLAINTS YET, AND THE RHODE ISLAND ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS HAS HAD A HANDFUL OF REPORTS, SO MAYBE WE ARE HELPING PUT A STOP TO THIS, BEFORE LOTS OF PEOPLE HERE GET RIPPED OFF: