Rental scam targets homeowners with houses for sale

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - A warning from a local couple trying to sell their home: Someone pretending to be the homeowner has been posting ads online claiming their home is for rent.

"It's scary to know that someone out there is using my husband's identity to steal money from unsuspecting victims," said Caroline Long.

The Longs hired a Realtor and put their southwest Houston home up for sale about seven months ago. The couple's Realtor was recently flooded with phone calls from people who wanted to rent the home.

"He has posted our address, but on some websites, he's posted interior pictures of a completely different house," Long said.

The ad lists that the house can be rented for $800.

"Someone is trying to use our identity as a scam and steal money from unsuspecting victims," Long said. "That really makes me mad that people would have the audacity to do that."

The Longs said they are worried that someone could show up on their doorstep and become angry once they realized they've been duped.

Phoebe Yeager said has been searching for a home to rent. She saw the ad for the Longs' home and thought it was too good to be true.

"The house was still completely furnished," Yeager said. "There was a folder in the house with all the details in the house about selling."

The man claiming to be Mr. Long asked that one month's rent and a security deposit be wired to an account in exchange for keys to the home.

"It's really frightening to have two young children and think that some stranger could just show up with an innocent couple and walk around the whole property," Long said.

The Better Business Bureau said scams like this are very common in the Houston area.

"We've been seeing them for a few years now and we tend to see more of them in the summer," said Monica Russo with the Better Business Bureau.

Russo said it's unfortunate because the people behind the scams are rarely caught.

"Most of them are working these scams sitting in Internet cafes in other countries," Russo said. "It's very unlikely that they'll ever be caught."

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