GREENSBORO, N.C. — Imagine trying to move to a city in the Triad and scouring websites to find an affordable home for you and your family.
You come across the perfect fit online with an unbeatable price.
But it turns out, you’ve been scammed out of hundreds of dollars.
These scams are happening in the Triad, where people are using actual real estate listings to trick people.
One local real estate agent told FOX8 he had heard stories of people moving from a different city or state, pulling up to a home they think they just rented, only to find out it had been purchased and was being lived in by someone else.
At first glance, the rental listing Nathaniel Birdsong found on Craigslist looked legitimate.
“It was advertising it as a rental property,” he said.
But he knew better, because he’s the real estate agent for the actual listing for the Greensboro home.
“[The ad] had taken all of the information that I had posted for this home, but changed the list price to be lower than it actually is,” Birdsong said.
He’s heard of these schemes from other Triad real estate agents.
“Scammers are putting homes on there and lowering the rent price pretty significantly, in order to attract as many people as possible,” he said.
So Birdsong played along.
“I actually reached out to the person who was running the ad on Craigslist and pretended to be an interested renter, just to see how they would respond,” he said.
He asked for pictures, answered screening questions, and even filled out a leasing application that was sent to him in the body of an unofficial email from an alleged traveling nurse trying to rent out the family house.
“I offered up many answers that would typically be a red flag to a real property owner,” said Birdsong. “I asked if we could see properties and how do I get the keys. The response was, ‘As soon as I get your payment for the security deposit, we’ll proceed with the shipment of the keys and the lease agreement.'”
The person requested a payment of $650 via CashApp.
“If I had made the payment, I never would have received anything in the mail,” Birdsong said.
He didn’t pay the scammer, but he did report and submit every piece of correspondence and evidence he had to the FBI Cyber Crimes Division and the Greensboro Police Department.
Birdsong tells FOX8 he’s heard of too many other families getting taken advantage of and left with nowhere to live.
“[That] on top of losing money you probably saved as a security deposit to rent a place. What do you do in that situation? I can’t even imagine,” he said. “If I can convince one person not to fall for something like this and save a 7, 8, 9 hundred dollar security deposit, it’s worth it.”
Birdsong said it’s important to speak with the property owner on the phone or preferably in person. The scammer that he dealt with would only talk with him via email or text message.
He also said it’s important to verify the listing and ownership of the home through other verified websites. Often times, these sites will have the realtor or owner name on it and provide contact information.
Birdsong added, if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
Most importantly, Birdsong explained, is reporting these types of scams to local police departments and the website where the ad is located, so others don’t fall victim to it.