New scam targeting homebuyers and renters in Charlottesville

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- You are looking for a new place to live, so you go to Craigslist.com and find an out-of-this-world listing.

The ad is for a two-bedroom apartment on Locust Grove for $775 a month. The appliances are yours to keep, utilities are included and the apartment was just renovated.

You email the broker, and they email you back with some instructions.

It looks pretty straight forward, so you provide the broker with some key details in order to generate your credit score. In return, they show you an apartment listing too good to be true.

But it turns out, the listing is too good to be true. The ad is actually a scam aimed at getting your personal information.

"What they've done is copy and pasted parts of the add that we've done," said Jennifer White, Sitting in her office at D.M. Rothwell.

She noticed the fake ads about three weeks ago.

"I assume it's automated, because they've inadvertently left our name at the bottom," she said, motioning to the bottom of one of the fake ads.

White and the business she works for, have been used multiple times in the scam, without her consent, knowledge and despite her efforts to get Craigslist to take the ads down.

Unfortunately, the ads appear to be working. White says when a fake ad goes up, her office gets up to 60 calls a day about the listing.

"We were trying to tell people, 'where did you see it? Where did you find it?' and they're sending us to Craigslist," White said.

White took a deeper look and found that several of the ads even used her name as the broker.

"It's well done. I mean, it's a well done scam," she said.

Fortunately, White says there are ways to know a listing is bogus.

"There's no phone number in the ad, which is a big red flag," White said.

The apartment does not actually exist.

"If people are looking for rentals, most of your local management companies, everybody is going to put a phone number on it," White said about a typical real estate listing.

Using the Locust Grove listing as an example of what to look for in a fake ad, White pointed out several other red flags.

First, she says buyers should make sure the name in the email matches the name in the email address.

Second, White says a real ad will include broker information like an address, phone number and company name.

Third, she says a real estate agent never asks for personal information before showing a potential buyer a listing.

"They don't need a check from you or a money order from you to take your money. All they need is your personal information," White explained.

According to White, the best way to avoid getting scammed is to trust your gut. If it looks suspicious, close out of the ad and call the listing company directly.



 
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