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Real estate scam on Craigslist

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Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011 12:00 pm

By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

Area real estate agents are warning of a scam in which a man appears to be posing as local landlords enticing victims to send him money with cheap rent.

The perpetrator of the scam appears to be quite smart, Paradise Realty agent Lisandra Rozzi said Thursday. Rozzi has noticed several of her listings re-posted on the Internet classifieds website Craigslist.org.

In the ads, a man posing as the homeowner has stated he is living out of the country and is seeking a tenant to help him maintain the home.

"They change some of the numbers around, then they get people to send them money to invest in these properties," said Michael DeHart, executive officer for the Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors.

The Craigslist advertisements appear they are genuine because the scammer has done some research into the properties. Photos of the actual home were copied from Rozzi's listing with a few numbers switched around.

He then creates e-mail addresses that are variations of the actual homeowner's name, Rozzi said, and tells prospective victims he is the rental property's manager.

"Of course, he is not because I am the manager," Rozzi said.

The scheme has bilked at least two victims of more than $1,000, Rozzi said.

The scammer asks for a money order deposit, stating he will send a contract to the victim after he receives payment. Rozzi said that by the time many people realize what is going on, it is far too late to get their money back.

Rozzi said she became aware of the scam from people who answered the Craiglist ad and then went to the property to investigate the home. They called Rozzi because her phone number is on a rental sign posted in the homes' yards.

Both of the victims Rozzi has contacted lived far from the Killeen area and were unable to see the property first hand, she said.

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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