PLANO, TEXAS—Renters beware! Some North Texas real estate agents are warning those looking for a bargain to think twice.
A house is in an upscale Plano neighborhood: 3400 square feet, pool and spa.
" The ad read $1000 per month, $800 deposit," said Carrolton Resident Don Ray.
Ray found the home posted on the website www.ForRentByOwner.com. He and his wife drove by to take a look.
" Well, I knew as soon as I saw that neighborhood that they're not going to be listing a house for $1000 a month in that neighborhood, said Ray.
Ray was right. Gina Branch is the realtor who represents the property. She says a scam artist stole her legit listing and re-posted it as his own.
" This jerk is praying on innocent families desperate to find affordable housing," said ReMax Realtor Gina Branch.
Branch has been working to bust the scammer, who has a phone number based in Seattle. She says his number pops up on rental ads all over the country. She's even found another in Allen.
" He poses as the owner, posts an ad, generates interest and then he has the prospective tenant fill out an application and send a deposit via Western Union, and then he disappears, with not only the victim's money but enough personal information to commit identity theft if he wants to," said Branch.
Ray says for him there were some key red flags. In emails, the scammer described himself as a missionary who was out of town. He also asked Ray for his religion on the rental application, a question that's illegal.
" He wanted to know when we wanted to move in and was very anxious and adamant about getting the application process started," said Ray.
Branch says renters should follow that old wisdom: If it's too good to be true, it probably is.