Realtor warns of Craigslist property scam

Scammers claim they own a property, but want to rent it out while they’re overseas or out of state. (WJAR)

It's a spacious three bedroom home, with gleaming hardwood floors, granite countertops and updated appliances.

The rent is shockingly low at $850 a month.

You hesitate, because it sounds too good to be true. But then the person listing the property invites you to swing by and see it for yourself. If you like it, just send first and last month's rent and a security deposit, and they'll send you the key.

"It's a huge problem across the country and people are getting taken advantage of," said Emilio DiSpirito, a realtor with HomeSmart Professionals.

In reality, the home is for sale, not for rent. And it's definitely not owned by the person posting it on Craigslist, but folks are wiring crooks thousands of dollars.

Here's how they get away with it:

Scammers browse actual real estate listings and look for vacant properties. If the home is empty, it's unlikely that prospective renters will bump into anyone when they're invited to check out the property.

Then, the scammer takes the real listing and posts it on Craigslist. They claim they own the property, but want to rent it out while they're overseas or out of state.

As for the "For Sale" sign in the front yard?

"They say, 'Ignore the post sign. We've fired our agent because he's trying to rip us off,'" said DiSpirito.

DiSpirito reached out to NBC 10 News because several of his properties have appeared on Craigslist. Most recently, a listing in Warwick popped up.

DiSpirito said he's been contact on several occasions by people who spotted his sign in the front yard and wanted to make sure they weren't getting scammed. But they don't always call in time.

"She contacted me crying, telling me she lost her savings, and it was about $3,000," said DiSpirito.

DiSpirito said calling a realtor is the best way to get to the bottom of the story.

You can also search the property address on sites like Trulia or Realtor.com.

Another option is to right click on the image in the Craigslist posting, and select "search Google for this image." If the pictures pops up on other websites with different contact information, that's a huge red flag.

Whatever you do, don't wire money or write a check without doing some homework.

Unfortunately, many of these scammers are living overseas, which makes them tough to track down.

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