By Rich Cosgrove, President Stark County Association of REALTORS®

The old saying… if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, also applies to real estate transactions. When you’re looking to buy, sell, or lease a property you should stick to the mainstream website’s agents use to advertise. Sadly, we live in a world where people are looking to scam you out of money and find varies ways to do so. Real estate is no exception.

When a REALTOR® lists a home for sale, most times they will place a sign in the yard and enter the listing into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). From there the property goes out too many different websites so that the public can view the photos and detailed information about the property.

This is where scam artists pick up the information and photos of a property and begin to think of ways to get you to buy or lease the property through them even though they are not the owner or listing REALTOR®. The most common properties used for this scam are vacant. Scammers use properties of all values and locations.

The scam artists place ads on websites such as Craigslist stating the property is for sale for a low price or offer it for rent at a below market rate. These too good to be true prices entice people to reply to the ad.

An example:

The scammer uses the REALTORS® photos and places an ad online stating the property is for rent.  They use the correct address and often use the real owners last name to make it seem legit. When a prospective tenant contacts them the scam artist makes up a story that they are out of town currently and gives permission for the prospective tenant to go to the property and peek in the windows and to walk around to see if they are interested in the property.

Once the scam artist has someone interested in the property, they tell the prospect to wire the security deposit and first months rent to them. Once the scammer has received the funds, they will provide the prospective tenant with access to the house.

The scam artist then tells the prospective tenant that they have lost the key to the property and rather than hold the tenant up from getting into the house to just go ahead and break a window to gain access and it will be repaired. The tenant, unknowing that they have been scammed, moves into the property and doesn’t realize they have been scammed until the owner or REALTOR® finds them living in the property.

Does this sound outlandish or not realistic? This scenario has in fact happened.

Don’t get scammed. Do your homework and make sure you are dealing with the owner, property manager, or REALTOR® that has access to a property before giving any money. The first red flag that something isn’t right is when you can’t speak to someone on the phone or meet them in person.

The Stark County Association of REALTORS® invites you to visit our website at There you can find a complete list of REALTORS® and Affiliate members who are available to help with your real estate needs.  The Stark County Association of REALTORS® members are honored to service the Stark, Trumbull, & Carroll County Communities

If you have any questions or comments on this article, please contact me by email at


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