Police: Beware of online real estate scam


Persons looking to lease a residential property here are being cautioned by Kearny police that “there are currently numerous fraudulent Craigslist posts listed in Kearny. The listings are for home rentals in our town.”

“It’s a ‘phishing’ scam,” PBA Local #21 President John Fabula told The Observer. In other words, the fake posters are “asking for a lot of personal information” from people who answer the ads.

Sometimes, that’s all the fraudsters want — since personal-info “phishing” can be the direct path to identity theft. However, the con artists might also ask for money. And if you send money, you’ll never see it again. Neither will you get your rental — because the person who placed the ad has no connection with the property in question.

According to a warning on posted on Local #21’s Facebook page, “These homes are still owned, and the photos for the listings are being obtained from sites like Zillow and Trulia.”

So, a prospective tenant goes on Craigslist, sees a nifty-looking photo and inquires about the rental.

Notes the PBA: “After receiving that response, the post originator sends a questionnaire in an attempt to obtain your personal information. The originator may then request a wire transfer for the down payment or security deposit.”

They might promise to then send you the keys — which you will not receive. Or the alleged “owner” arranges to meet you at the property — and never shows up.

The PBA advises that one “easy way to spot that it is a scam is that the post originator introduces themselves as the owner but uses the names backwards as if it’s being copied and pasted from tax records; i.e. Mr. Smith John.”

The KPD learned of the fraud from a concerned citizen who nearly got conned but alerted the police before he wired any money for the rental. Fabula noted, “That particular house turned out to be vacant and in foreclosure.”

Checking Craigslist, “we were able to find a couple of similar ads for Kearny properties,” Fabula said.

He noted that although the KPD focused on local listings, “we have heard of it [the same scam] happening with homes in other areas.”

So, the bottom line is: Beware.

That goes for homeowners, too. If you have listed a property on Zillow and/or Trulia, the KPD advises: “To protect yourself and others from this type of scam, you can sign on to these real estate sites, claim your property, and delete the photos.”

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