Family in Montgomery Co. falls victim to rental scam

Family in Montgomery Co. falls victim to rental scam

MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - The Lassiters' story is like so many others.

"I got a text from my sister in law," Katie Lassiter explained. "Her friend saw our house was for rent for $900. She was asking if we were really renting for that."

One day after Lassiter posted pictures of her home on Craigslist, the ad appeared on Trulia's rental home site.

"Our pictures were the same," Lassiter said. "The front of the house was the same [and] a lot of the description was the same."

It quickly became a hot property.

Independently, a friend's husband submitted an inquiry on the home and received an immediate response.

"He got a response from me, but it wasn't me," Lassiter said. "It said I was moving to North Carolina and I just couldn't part with the house, so I was renting it."

The Lassiter's took the problem into their own hands and contacted the reported scammer through the cover number listed on the ad.

They confirmed the property was, "perfectly available." But when the Lassister's show their hand, and broke the news they were the legal owners the communication stopped.

"I never knew anyone would try to steal my information, steal our pictures. It makes you feel helpless," Lassister said.

To date, at least half a dozen people have called to rent the Lassiter's property. Trulia took the property down after noon on Monday, but that may be the only recourse this family receives.

The Consumer Protection division of the AG's Office, along with the Alabama Real Estate Commission confirms there's little that can be done to prosecute these property hackers as most live outside the country.

Many Alabama residents have fallen victim to the "rental scam," by sending cash deposits or certified money orders through the mail, never hearing from the spammers again.

Experts advise those who are looking to rent, to do their homework before sending a cash deposit. Also, if the property owner is encouraging the tenant to sign a lease without going through the house, this should raise a red flag.

Another sign of a bad ad: a for sale sign in the yard of the home, as opposed to a rental sign.

For those looking to sell their homes, we're told little can be done to guard your information and images against this issue. If you have your home listed, you're encouraged to search the address daily to make sure fraudulent ads aren't circulating.

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