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Real estate scams are on the rise. Here's what you need to know

Chantal Allam, The News & Observer on

Published in Business News

Landlord Sonja Kluesener first suspected something fishy when three potential renters contacted her about the Zebulon home she’d just listed on Zillow, and there was a significant price difference.

In her ad, she’d listed the three-bedroom ranch-style cottage at $1,700 per month. But they reported finding a similar ad on another listings site — for $200 less.

Then it clicked. “People were impersonating me,” she told The News & Observer.

Scammers had lifted her ad from the popular real estate site and, within days, created a fake listing using Kluesener’s name, photos, and even open-house times. They also added a few sweeteners, like the below-market price and allowance for “cats and large dogs,” and then posted it to other sites like Redfin and ForRent.com.

The contact number and email listed, however, wasn’t hers.

“Each of these people believed they’d been emailing with me and were about to wire $4,500 for rent and security to whoever put up the false listing. (They) even sent people to my open house to make it seem legit,” Kluesener said.

 

The scam unraveled when people became suspicious and contacted her through Zillow. But she worries others won’t be as lucky. “Other than informing the public, I have no idea how to stop it,” she said.

A Zillow spokesperson said its teams actively monitor the site for possible fraud or scams, preventing them from getting posted.

“If a listing is found to be fraudulent, it is removed from our site as quickly as possible,” the company emailed in a statement.

Zillow also offers warnings on its website on how to avoid rental and home for-sale scams, and other internet fraud.

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