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New scam targets perspective renters

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Posted at 9:23 PM, Jan 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-28 23:23:56-05

UTAH COUNTY -- Renters beware – a new scam has hit Utah Valley and is targeting perspective tenants.

Kim Brown has been a realtor at Bill Brown Realty for 12 years. Last week he got a call he never thought he’d get.

“It’s really surprising that it happens, that it’s happening here and to one of my listings. You don’t expect it,” Brown said.

Brown had a house listed for sale in Provo. But unknown to him and the owner, the listing was copied, slightly altered and then reposted as a rental on the real estate website Zillow by a con-artist.

“Because we have so much information available it's no different than a cup holder in a movie theater you can set it there but while you watch the movie someone else can grab your cup for a sip,” Brown said.

Last week Kary Davis found the home for rent on Zillow and emailed who she thought was the property owner. The scammer quickly replied, saying they were out of the country and unable to show the home in person. But if she wanted the home, it was hers.

“I was so excited I thought I was getting this house and had all the money saved,” Davis said

Several more emails were exchanged and the deal was almost done. But when Kary tried to call the purported owner, he wouldn’t answer his phone.

“I couldn't understand why a landlord wouldn't want to talk to somebody who they were going to rent to on the phone,” Davis said.

That’s when Davis went to the home and saw that it was posted for sale, not rent. She called the listed realtor, Brown, who was surprised to get the call.

“That’s when it became clear that it was definitely a scam,” Brown said.

The scammer told Davis to send a deposit check and he would mail her the keys.

“It breaks my heart because I`m a single mom I have three kids that I’m trying to raise on my own and I work hard every day for my money and to have somebody just want to take that from me,” Davis said with tears swelling in her eyes.

This is one of the first rental scams that Brown has seen in this area and already more and more people are calling that have been tricked by the scam.

“Yesterday another lady called looking for the same information to get the rental. It looks like this is going to be an ongoing thing,” Brown said.

Davis is grateful they spotted the scam just in time.

“They don’t understand the consequences that they do to the people that they scam because they would’ve got my money and me and my kids would have been on the streets,” Davis said.