Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Scammers target realty listings Fake ads seeking cash turn up online

BY GRETA GUEST
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Meg Potts knew something was wrong before a woman showed up at her Royal Oak home asking whether it was for rent.

The morning after a post went up on Craigslist indicating her three-bedroom house was for rent for $800, she started getting phone calls from people leaving confused messages on her answering machine.

Scam artists are hijacking For Sale and rental listings in metro Detroit and placing modified ads on other sites. No one knows how widespread the schemes are, but local police have been getting complaints about them in the past month. The tactics are similar to those of Nigerian e-mail scams.

Potts, 34, a financial consultant, and her husband, Samuel, 35, a schoolteacher, had listed their home for sale three weeks ago. Someone had copied their listing information including photos and posted them on Craigslist.

The person, who used the owner’s name in the e-mail address for potential renters to get more information, was trying to get people to wire him a $400 “security deposit” in Nigeria and he would in turn send the house keys.

Police and federal regulators say the best way to avoid this kind of scam is to avoid sending money to someone you haven’t met. They warn not to wire any money.
Crooks seek money off other people’s listings

“My client had someone show up at her door. I think she was a little taken aback,” said Realtor Noel Heideman of Max Broock in Birmingham.

Heideman said his client’s three-bedroom house in Royal Oak was listed for $159,900 three weeks ago. He did not post it on Craigslist, where it was posted by someone else who was asking $800 rent. If they were to rent the home, the market price would be closer to $1,200 to $1,500.

The owners, Potts and her husband Samuel, were surprised to find the posting on Craigslist after a Good Samaritan alerted them to the scam.

The person, who used Samuel Potts’ name in the e-mail address for potential renters to get more information, was trying to get people to wire him money in Nigeria to send the house keys so they could look inside the home.

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May 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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