SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- Many online schemes are designed to steal money. Now scammers are turning to real estate to make easy money off people looking for a place to live.
Looking at real estate listings on the web is a common way to find a place to live, but some agents are finding phony ads that ask for money up front with no guarantee of seeing the property.
One Summerville realtor and her clients were nearly duped.
Loren Bethea says there are more renters than rental properties in the Summerville area, and she think someone is trying to take advantage of the problem by illegally cashing in on Craigslist.
"They copied and pasted these pictures like they were their own and used them in Craigslist to advertise the property," she said.
Bethea says someone took photos from her Summerville real estate listings and created a false rental advertisement that asked for a deposit in exchange for keys.
"The hacker was trying to create a sense of urgency, you know, because it was so cheap. And such a beautiful home, that people were just calling like crazy," she said.
Bethea says someone else posted an ad on Craigslist for a home in the Summer Trace neighborhood that she was trying to sell. The fake listing was a rental for $900 a month.
"A house like this in Summerville I would say would be probably $1,600 a month," Bethea said.She
discovered the problem after several people called the inquire about the property.
"I did talk to everybody that called me and said, 'Please this is a scam. Don't ever wire anybody any money,'" Bethea said.
She said she reported the problem to Craigslist and the illegitimate listing was taken down after three days. Still, she felt uneasy.
"The sellers were alarmed. You know, I was alarmed that somebody could actually advertise my property without my knowledge, you know, and try to get money from people," she said.
As a license realtor, Bethea recommends prospective renters use a reputable company to find a home and meet the owner before putting down a deposit.
"If it's a good deal and it's a legitimate property, it'll be there when you get there to look at it," she said.
Bethea says an online ad that appears too good to be true probably is.
Another local real estate expert said one of his clients wired $1,500 to an online ad and never heard back from the property owner.