North Texas Renters Facing Scammers Online

If you're looking for an apartment online, be careful. That’s the message from real estate agents working in North Texas.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Sally Arevalo, a realtor for Keller Williams.

Regularly, Aravelo hears from customers interested in a property that is being falsely advertised by a scammer online. After she posts images of a home she is selling, someone will lift the photos and post a new ad on sites such as Craigslist.

"It happens quite a bit," she explained. "A lot of times people, when they're told to send money in, a lot of times what they'll do is they'll drive by the property. They see the sign with my phone number and they've contacted me. That's typically how I've found out."

Recently, Aravelo's office posted a home for sale on Keller Williams, priced at more than $200,000.

A few days later, a woman contacted them to inquire about a rental ad for the home she saw on Craigslist. The property was listed for $800 per month under the seller's name. Neither Aravelo nor her client had posted it.

"It's unfortunate," Aravelo said. "You wish that there was a better way of being able to control it."

Craigslist offers consumers tips to avoid scams on their websites. On a separate page, they advise people to "deal locally, face-to-face." The information also includes agencies to contact if you are the victim of a scam.

"We've moved away from it entirely," said Cassie Brown, who owns Smart City Apartment Locating.

When she started the company a few years ago, Craigslist was a resource she utilized daily to post available apartments around the city. Now, she tries to avoid sites like it.

"Now, it's all scammers," Brown explained. "People are like, 'Hey, where's this $800 one-bedroom in Uptown?' And we're like, 'I'm so sorry that doesn't exist.'"

The best defense against the problem, according to Aravelo, is an informed consumer. She advises to never agree to a deal over the Internet that you have not been able to verify in-person.

"People are doing it because it works," she said.

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