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Scammers taking to real estate business - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Scammers taking to real estate business

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Keller Williams Roers Realtor Jeff Shipley had just listed a new property.

"The agent called me asking if it was for rent. I know the agent well. I called him back and said 'No it's not,' " says Shipley, who is also the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors President.

That's when he found out he had been targeted by a growing scam.

"He proceeded to say that one of his clients found it on realrentals.com," he says.

680 members belong to the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors. Executive Vice President Marti Kaiser says she's heard from many of them in just the past few weeks.

"I've been getting phone calls from our members, which are realtors, about scammers attempting to rent out a house that they don't currently own by stealing information off of our MLS," she says.

Realtors use the Multiple Listing Service as a database of properties for sale. From there, scammers try to lure in renters on third-party sites.

"It's very realistic looking," says Kaiser. "They steal it right down to the details of the owner's name and minute details about the property," she says.

"Even their email address that they created had my name in it," says Shipley.

Experts say that if you're looking to rent, some red flags include not being able to take an inside tour of the property, a real estate sign in front that might mean the property is actually for sale- not for rent and a promise to send keys after you send the first month's rent or a down payment.

"Sometimes the rent amount may seem to good to be true. If you feel that way, it probably is too good to be true," says Kaiser.

Experts say you should never give up your money unless you've seen the property. They also stress prevention: Once you hand over your payment, it can be too late. 

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