HOUSTON – You’ve heard the phrase "buyer beware." Turns out, the seller also needs to be on the lookout for scammers
A realtor in The Woodlands says his listing was stolen and used in a fraudulent Craigslist ad.
"Shocked. Shocked and angry," said Ryan Hajdik.
He listed the three-bedroom home in the Spring area on HAR.com for $1,250 a month.
The phones quickly started ringing.
"The guy wanted me to come out there right this minute," said Larry Campanello, the broker for the firm.
He knew that something was not right when the caller said, "We want it because it is $600 a month!"
"I said, ‘I don’t think so,’" Campanello replied.
The calls kept coming. Virtually all of them referred to an ad on Craigslist. That was their second clue.
"I had just listed this house and I had not posted on Craigslist," says Hajdik.
They decided to do a little digging and sent an email to the ad poster asking about the house. They got back a three-page email with a reply and an application form.
The scammer had quite a story: "We have moved out due to my transfer to Warsaw, Poland. Presently my house is still available for rent."
But it is not their house.
The scammer requested an $800 deposit and the first month of rent.
Even if they didn’t get any money—and we don’t know if they did—what they likely got was potentially even more expensive. The rental application in the ad asked for information that could be used to steal an identity.
"We are a small firm, Pinnacle Realty Group—family-owned. And this hits us hard because all we have is our reputation," Hajdik said.
The real owners haven’t heard from anyone who lost money, but there is a simple lesson here, "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is," Hajdik said.
The realtors did contact police and they were told that there is very little anyone can do until it is proven that a crime has been committed.
In this case they worked with Craigslist to remove the fraudulent post, but it is likely that there are plenty more out there.
The biggest red flag: Unusually low prices.