(WTNH) — Renters and sellers, beware! There’s a real estate scam that’s popping up in cities and towns across Connecticut. Scammers are hijacking real estate listings, passing them off as their own rental properties in the hopes of stealing money.
“She felt violated, I felt violated!” said Amy Desel, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate.
Desel listed a home for sale in Monroe, but when she started receiving calls from renters, not buyers, she knew something was off.
“I found out someone hijacked the listing and posted it on Craigslist as a rental,” explained Desel.
Desel said these scammers stole everything from the listing photos to the property details to her client’s identity. They used the seller’s name in emails to prospective renters.
“She was very concerned,” said Desel.
The scammer even encouraged prospective renters to stop by the house to check it out.
“They were told to show up at the property and they couldn’t get in, but they were welcome to walk the grounds and look inside the windows to see the property,” said Desel. “We literally had people walking the lawn and looking in her window, which was very frightening.”
If someone expressed interest in renting the property, the scammer put pressure on them to send money right away.
In an email to a prospective renter, which was obtained by News 8, the scammer wrote: “I want you to understand that there are other interested [applicants] sending emails and this may be subject to a first-pay, first-served basis.”
Desel told News 8 they jumped into action, working to get the ad taken down.
“We actually reached out to the person that ran the ad as an inquiry, saying we’re aware of what you’re doing, and the homeowner did that,” said Desel. “The posting was taken down the next day.”
How can you avoid these scams when looking into rental properties?
“If you’re looking for an apartment or a house and it sounds too good to be true – some amazing deal – it probably is too good to be true,” explained Attorney General William Tong.
Attorney General Tong said be mindful of the information you give out.
“We’re all at risk for identity theft,” explained Attorney General Tong. “People are always trying to get at our personal information that they can use to get an advantage over us or steal our identities or money.”
Friday, AG Tong additionally urged people to be careful as they book summer rentals, as well.
He said some scammers copy real listings, but change the contact information and lower the price. In many cases, AG Tong said people don’t even realize they’ve been scammed until they arrive.
“If you want to rent something, you see a listing, you’re responding to a legitimate listing and you’re communicating with actually owns the property or is authorized to rent the property,” explained AG Tong. “Make sure you get a rental agreement, look at that rental agreement, make sure it protects you before you sign it and send any money.”
He’s also encouraging everyone to do their research and take their time before signing the dotted line and sending in money.
If you spot a scam or believe you’ve fallen victim to one, report it right away. You can do so by calling the police, the Department of Consumer Protection, or Attorney General Tong’s office.