Special Report: Home rental scam making a comeback, targeting people across southeast Wisconsin

Special Report: Home rental scam making a comeback, targeting people across southeast Wisconsin

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- A home rental scam, popular several years ago, could be making a comeback and targeting people here in Southeast Wisconsin.

Richard Schmidt lives in Oak Creek and was looking for a rental home in Franklin when he came across a Craigslist ad. The pictures made it look like a perfect fit

“He said that he wanted me to fill out an application for the home to see if I qualified for it,” Schmidt said.

The man told Schmidt his name was Pastor Derrick Dave, and that he and his wife were going to West Africa on a mission trip for several years, that’s why they needed to rent the home.

“At first I thought $800 seems cheap in Franklin, which it is and then I see the pastor and I see his story and think okay that makes sense to me,” Schmidt said.

After Schmidt’s application was accepted, he asked if he could take a quick tour.

“It probably wasn’t until after he responded back and said he couldn’t give me an inside look at the home, didn’t seem right to me,” Schmidt said.

Instead of sending the supposed Pastor money, Schmidt called CBS 58 Investigates.

“Because I want other people to be aware, you know?” Schmidt said.

We found the home listed on realtor.com. The pictures were identical to those on the craigslist posting.

So we met up with the realtor, Lynette Lister.

“I was like is this another scam?” Lister said.

Lister says this was a popular scam years ago, in 2005 and 2006.

“We saw it more and more so a lot of the agents stopped doing the advertising on Craigslist,” Lister said.

Lister took us to the house. She says the real reason it’s for sale is the elderly owner moved to a nursing home.

Before we left, we tried to call the scammer. He didn’t answer, but did respond to a text. We pretended to be an interested renter   and got him to send us an application.

The application asked how much money we could come up with and how quickly we pay. The email also said we could drive by the house but couldn’t see inside.

Jim Temmer, president of The Better Business Bureau serving Wisconsin, says that is a red flag.

“If you can’t be there physically, if you know someone in the city you’re moving to, ask them to go and visit it,” Temmer said. “Talk to people there.”

Experts say it’s common from scammers to pull real pictures, from real estate sites, of homes that are actually for sale.

“More empty homes because they can get away with it,” Lister said. “I mean if they even want to be really technical, they could meet them at the exterior of the house. I have heard of stories that, where, they have oh we’re getting a new set of keys installed, that’ll be done by later today.”

So do your homework.

-Do an internet search for the address, make sure it’s not listed somewhere else.

-Know where you’re sending the money . P.O. boxes and out of country addresses could mean it’s a scam.

-Always Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true.

And if you have questions, call a realtor.

“It takes me no more than five minutes to call a listing agent, ask,” Lister said.

Unsurprisingly the scammer texted CBS 58 Investigate and said our application, which was filled out using made up information, was approved.

 “We are giving you our house based on trust and good faith so please do not disappoint us okay?” he texted.

He told us to send the money through Western Union, to a woman in Nigeria.

“I will be very busy so my financial secretary will be the one to help me pick up the money okay,” he texted.

CBS 58 Investigates did eventually get the scammer on the phone, but he quickly hung up when questioned about the scam.

Lister says even though she hasn’t seem this scam a lot lately, it could be making a comeback.

“With Foxconn coming in and the expenditure of Amazon possible coming down in to Oak Creek, we are so low on inventory and you’re going to have a lot of consumers that are desperate for houses, rentals,” Lister said. “So we could actually see it two to three years that this becomes an issue as it was in ’06.”

Schmidt hopes by telling his story, no else will fall for this scam, and he wants to send a message to the conman.

“I would say stop doing it and get a real job,” Schmidt said. “You’re scamming on people and the problem is, if you’re scamming on poor, older innocent people that think well this is great, you give them the money and you never see these people again.”

If you want to read some tips on avoid Craigslist scams or to report a scam click here.

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