Realtors’ home, a decoy for Nigerian rental scam

FBI says the so-called “419 scheme” has taken in victims in California and other states since way back in the 1980s

Rental scams are mounting in the Inland region, as Heather Stevenson, a real estate broker and team leader for Prudential California Realty, can attest.

Stevenson’s own home was used as a decoy for a scheme that may have been tried from as far away as Nigeria, she said.

As soon Stevenson had the home listed for $519,000 on the Multiple Listing Service, Stevenson said ads popped up on reputable online real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia to rent the four-bedroom home on Alsace Drive in Corona for $1,000 a month.

Problem was, she wasn’t renting the home. The ad was also placed by someone who pretended to be Stevenson’s husband.

“These scammers see what homes are posted for sale, and then do free ‘by-owner’ ads that no one checks on to offer a home for a ridiculous price with the promise of taking care of their home,” Stevenson said. “The tenant fills out an application with private information, and once approved, is asked to wire money to get the keys.”

Those keys never show up. The money is not returned. Typically, it cannot be traced.


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