Scheme targets people wanting to rent

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, October 10, 2009
— Andy Quarne nearly fell for a local home rental scam, but he realized something was fishy before losing his money.

He's worried others might not be so lucky.

"The guy is good," the Evansville resident said. "It would be really easy to see how he could prey on the general population, especially if they want a place real bad."

The scam has been happening in Janesville, local realtors said, and it also has occurred in other parts of the state.

Here is how it works:

The scammer places ads on Craigslist, a popular classified ads Web site. The ads are for homes to rent in Janesville, using information and addresses of homes listed for sale.

The scammer poses as the home's owner, claiming he has moved overseas for a new job. He provides an application to rent the home. He communicates via e-mail or telephone.

He tells people they can view the house from the outside, but they can't see the inside because the keys are with him. He tells people to ignore the sale sign in the yard because it is off the market.

He then asks them to send a rent deposit in exchange for the keys.

Mary Alonso, a realtor with Century 21 Affiliated in Janesville, said she caught on to the scam after receiving two calls about a home she has listed for sale.

In both cases, people wanted to see the home after noticing the sign in the yard, but they said they had talked to the owner about renting it.

Surprised, Alonso contacted the homeowner. She learned the conversations never took place. She then realized the people asking to see the house were being scammed.

"I would want to meet a real person before giving my money to anyone," Alonso said.

In Quarne's case, he called Ray Hartje, also a realtor with Century 21 Affiliated, after seeing Hartje's name on the sign at the home he thought he was going to rent.

"I said, 'It's a good thing you called me first. That's a scam,'" Hartje said. "Don't send any money to these people."

Last updated: 11:46 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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