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OREM —The Utah housing market is hot, and it appears scammers are trying to cash in by duping renters.
Orem-based RE/MAX realtor Steven Bond said Wednesday he’s now seeing fake rental ads appear online for roughly one in every 10 homes he lists for sale.
“Someone, somewhere is grabbing the pictures, copying and pasting the remarks and posting them on classified ads for rent,” Bond said.
Bond showed KSL a house in Lehi priced at $295,000 that had sold within six days after its listing.
He said an upset would-be renter contacted him and alerted him to a fake online ad for the same home, offering rent at $1,100 per month.
Bond said the woman was out a $1,000 deposit.
“Their whole intent is to collect the deposit and run with the money,” Bond said.
It was unclear after checking with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and Utah Association of Realtors if the scams were currently as prevalent in other areas of the state.
Still, there have been past warnings about rental scams on online classified websites.
Someone, somewhere is grabbing the pictures, copying and pasting the remarks and posting them on classified ads for rent.
–RE/MAX realtor Steven Bond
In July 2012, Utah Division of Consumer Protection officials cautioned about the scams that usually asked would-be renters to wire money to obtain a key to the property.
Information circulated by the division noted at the time that complaints had been registered by real estate agents, potential renters and property managers.
The division warned of several “common elements” found in the fake ads, including “very poor” language, follow-up numbers that are international or out-of-state, requests to wire deposit money, and situations where the “landlord” in charge of renting is located somewhere else and may be in the middle of some type of religious work.
Bond called the number associated with the fake ad for the Lehi home, and got a response via text within minutes, noting that the supposed owner of the house was in Albion, Maine.
A subsequent email from the fake owner stated he was in Maine “doing the Lord’s duty for humanity.”
Saratoga Springs resident Landon Buie nearly fell recently for a fake rental listing for a different Lehi home.
“You know, money is tight for everybody,” Buie said. “It was probably $500 less than what the average other prices were for the homes.”
Buie ultimately did not go forward with an offer after growing suspicious about the ad.
He said it upset him that scammers were taking advantage of innocent people with families.
“I hope that whoever is doing this scam is caught,” he said.
Watchdogs noted deposit money in these cases is often not recoverable because it is frequently wired overseas.
Bond said if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
He strongly cautioned renters never to put money down on properties they haven’t seen in person.
“Absolute red flag,” Bond said. “You should never move on something like that.”