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Special Report: Protecting yourself from new real estate scam sweeping the nation

Early summer is a busy time for the real estate market. Scam artists are trying to take advantage of people looking for a new home to rent.

Kyle Stark is selling his home so he was shocked when someone stopped by and said they had made a deal to rent it.

"They wanted to meet me because they said they were moving in this weekend," said Stark.

It's a scam real estate agents are seeing nationwide.

"They're using real listings and changing the phone numbers and changing the name of owners so that people think they are getting a really good deal in the area," said Bobette Gonzalez, a realtor.

Con artists lift pictures and descriptions from actual real estate listings then create their own fake ads. In just one example, a home was listed to rent for $2,300 but a scammer posted it on Facebook for just $800."

"We really urge people to look out for this one," said Katherine Hutt with the Better Business Bureau. Hutt says criminals try to convince potential victims they have to rent the property fast without seeing it first.

"Everything is done by phone or email and they ask for the money to be wired ahead of time, usually they are asking for some kind of payment that is not traceable, a wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, that kind of thing and once the money is sent, it's gone," Hutt said.

That Houston home with the Facebook advertisement had so many people come by to view it that the real owners had to put a sign on the front door warning that the $800 price was phony.

"Something that sounds too good to be true, that's a big red flag," said Hutt. Hutt says spotting those red flags can keep renters looking for a good deal from falling victim to this scam.

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