Posted on May 10, 2012 at 9:13 PM
Friday, Jun 14 at 12:00 PM
(News 4 Investigates) -- If you're looking to buy or rent a place to live, chances are you are looking online. That is how a man named Charles found a house in Ferguson. He found the house on Craigslist for $500 a month and started emailing the owner; or the person he thought was the owner.
“We feel it's legit but don't want to send the money if it's not” said Charles.
He was emailing a guy named randy who said he was in London and would send the keys if Charles sent a $500 deposit. Charles was unsure on what to do, so he called News 4’s Chris Nagus. Nagus called the houses real owner, a woman named Jill.
She told Chris “there is no guy in London who should be asking for money for keys to this house.”
Turns out, Randy is a fake but in a bizarre twist the real owner's ex-husband is named Randy.
Scammers are ripping off real listings and using the names of real property owners to set up fake email accounts.
Just ask Mike McCurley in O’Fallon Illinois. He told News 4 that “the advertiser of (a) house used my wife’s name. It is the third time a home listed by Mike has been hijacked online and it's unsettling to discover the crooks using his family's real identity.
“It's definitely a growing problem in our area” she told News 4.
She says she sees this at least once a day, sometimes more and no price point is off limits.
“I have seen it in the luxury market where people have listed the property for least for $800 when really the property is worth a million plus” said Breitenstein.
That sounds familiar. In the case of Mike McCurley's properties the scammers undercut the real price by half to entice unsuspecting people to send money via Western Union for keys to a castle they did not own. So Chris Nagus picked up the phone to call Randy about a house in Ferguson.
Sure enough he picked up, but he became frustrated when Nagus started asking him about if there were any grocery stores nearby. And then “Randy” got really angry when Nagus called him out saying he knew he did not really own the home. Randy told Nagus to shut his dirty mouth, and to get off his phone.
Our real estate expert offered some advice: if you're renting meet the person in person, don't send money oversees and if you're buying ask a realtor to do the research to make sure the offer is legit.