SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – A widow in Sevierville is heartbroken after nearly a dozen people fell victim to a scam involving her house. After seeing an ad on Craigslist, they believed the home was for rent, but it wasn’t. It was for sale.
Craigslist has fast become an enormously successful classified advertisement website. It has sections devoted to jobs, items wanted and homes that are for sale or to rent. Alicia Kolze been trying to sell her home for three months, but many people have come by believing it’s for rent.
Kolze reluctantly decided to sell her house not long after her husband and son died. Her place has a nice view of the Smoky Mountains from the front yard. She asked licensed realtor Ginnie Almy to list the two bedroom, two bath home and for several months, pictures of the house were posted online and seen in several multiple listing services.
However, Kolze says many came believing the house was for rent.
“All of a sudden i began to get people coming up into my driveway. One actually came with a U-haul full of furniture. I asked him, ‘Can I help you?’ He said, ‘I’m moving in.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Oh my God, did I get scammed?’ said Kolze.
Kolze had to post a sign in front of her house warning people. She says several people had been told rent was $425 dollars a month and that included utilities. Several had wired $850 money for both the deposit and rent.
“I had to tell them the truth. It’s a scam. It broke one lady’s heart because she was expecting a baby and wanted to move in here in a nice home,” said Kolze.
“They’re stealing it off of websites. You put your listing in, it goes out through the IDX and onto multiple websites, and the scammer goes and takes the picture, doctors it up and says it’s for rent… when it is really for sale. They’ll tell you to forget the for sale sign, that person has nothing to do with it anymore,” said realtor Ginnie Almy.
Almy says in the scam involving Kolze’s house, the con artists used the name of her her late husband.
“I have [contacted Craigslist] and asked them to please remove it because it was not true,” she said. “They have. I cannot find it on Craigslist anymore.”
Sadly, stories like this one are all too common, but there are some red flags to watch for. If you’re told the property’s representative is unable to meet with you in person, be suspicious. If you’re asked to wire money before you’ve seen the property, be suspicious. If the deal sounds too good to be true, be suspicious.
“Call a board of realtors, each area does have one. Our board of realtors and the Knoxville board of realtors, whenever a scam starts, they post it for all of us to know about,” said Almy.
Kolze says the experience has saddened her.
“You can’t trust nobody. You can’t believe nobody, and I felt so sorry for these people [who fell victim to the scam],” she said.
Kolze has recently decided not to sell her house.
Many of the people orchestrating these scams are highly persuasive and sometimes it is hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. In covering this scam over the years, two trends appear: The renter is never available to show you the house, and you have to send the money sight unseen. You should not do that.
Craigslist is good at dropping real estate scams, but it’s so easy for the scammers to find another house and start all over again.