WASHINGTON TERRACE -- A real estate agent says a scammer pirated a listing for a home for sale in Washington Terrace and advertised the property as a rental on an online classified site to profit from prospective tenants.
Dina Scheifl, an agent with Keller Williams Success Realty in South Ogden, said she advertised the home for sale July 4 on a multiple listing.
Three days later, another area real estate agent searching KSL Classifieds for investment properties came across the home that was listed for rent. The listing incorrectly claimed the husband of the lister owned the dwelling, Scheifl said.
The agent sent an email to the woman, who purports to live in Florida, seeking more information about the house. She replied in an email laced with broken English and grammar mistakes.
"We will be away for a while that is why we made up our mind to put up our house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it," the email reads.
"Please i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent, so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own."
The email included a rental application, stated that a $1,000 deposit would be required in advance and that information about how to obtain keys to the house would be provided later.
Efforts to contact the woman who listed the house for rent through a phone number listed in the email were unsuccessful.
Scheifl believes the lister is a fictitious person and the KSL Classifieds ad, which has since been removed, was an attempt to scam deposits from unsuspecting renters.
"I'm afraid they will be taking advantage of young couples or the elderly," she said.
A KSL Classifieds employee, who declined to give her name, said Friday free real estate ads on the site aren't policed. The employee also said it's not unusual for real estate scammers to try to use the classified website but noted swift action is taken against bogus listings.
"As soon as we find out a listing is fraudulent, we take it down," she said.
Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, sent out an alert Friday about real estate rental scams and noted that young renters are particularly susceptible.
"Young people seeking rental properties need to be especially careful when searching housing ads online," she said in a prepared statement.
"Many have grown up with the Internet and feel comfortable doing business without face-to-face interaction, which can make them more vulnerable to these types of online scams."
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection frequently gets complaints about home rental scams such as this one, said Traci Gundersen, who heads the agency.
It's difficult to catch the scammers because they typically reside in far-flung locations, such as Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Malta and Nigeria, she said.
Renters should be wary if they are asked to wire cash deposits in advance without being allowed to first inspect the property, Gunderson said. "Never wire money to anyone."
Renters can avoid being scammed by using professional real estate agents to help them find properties, said Deanna Devey, communications director for the Utah Association of Realtors.
"Be on your guard for situations that seem too good to be true, like a low deposit or rent, as well as for situations where a landlord wants money wired without showing you the house," Devey said in a prepared statement.
"We recommend using a Realtor who has experience in rental properties to help you vet potential renters or find units that are legitimately for rent."