A young Fort Worth woman has become the latest victim of what several real estate agents say is a common scheme.
Late last month, the 19-year-old found a house listed for rent on website Backpage.com, a classified ads site similar to Craigslist, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms for $550 per month, according to police.
But there was a big problem: the house was not available for rent. The house is for sale -- and the homeowners were unaware of the rental listing.
Clay Brants, president of the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors, said the practice of using actual real estate photos on bogus rental ads "happens more often than you'd know."
The 19-year-old victim emailed the contact listed on the website and was told to send $550 for a security deposit in exchange for the keys, according to police. After sending the payment, the victim was then instructed to resend the money via Western Union, police state.
After being told she could still not receive the keys, the victim contacted a real estate agent, who informed the woman that the house was actually listed for sale, police said. The woman then contacted criminal investigators.
Doug Pillard, of Sharcom Realty, is the listing agent for the house in question. He told NBC 5 by phone Thursday that police officers made him aware of the victim's claims. Pillard said he confirmed that the home was listed for rent on Backpage.com and contacted the site's administrators to have it removed. The "For Rent" ad was down by the next day, he said.
According to Brants, who also runs Brants Realtors in Fort Worth, people need to use caution when relying on web advertisements to select a home.
"You can window shop a lot on the Internet, but people have a tendency to believe that, if it's on the Internet, it's true," he said.
Brants added that it is safest to work with a licensed Realtor when securing a house.
The Fort Worth Police Department is investigating the 19-year-old woman's case as a theft, according to the police report.
There is no word at this point if there are any leads on a suspect.