LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Imagine finding a $259,000 house in a great neighborhood to rent for only $700 a month. That was ad on Craigslist this week, but it turns out it was a scam.
Realtor Marilyn Boudreaux had just listed the house in south Lake Charles for $259,000. She soon received an inquiry from a young couple who wanted to see it and they met at the house for a showing. It was when the interested party made reference to the price, Boudreaux realized there was a problem.
"The gentleman said, 'I find it really hard to believe, this is such a nice house, that it's for rent for $700.' And I said, 'Oh you must be mistaken, it isn't for rent. This home is for sale. This is a $259,000 house," said Boudreaux.
Turns out the young couple had seen the house advertised for rent on Craigslist.
"I said, 'I am very, very sorry but that is a scam.' I said that is not our listing, I did not put it on Craigslist," explained Boudreaux.
Soon the realtor's phone was blowing up with inquiries and other realtors who could see it was a scam.
"There is not a house in south Lake Charles for rent for $700, especially in this neighborhood," she said.
Those who responded directly to the ad on Craigslist received an email from someone pretending to be the owner, claiming the family was on a mission trip in Africa. The letter asked for a lot of personal information such as marital status, even a family picture, and whether they'd be willing to send money before the move-in date so that keys can be express delivered.
"They're not getting keys, people live in this house," said Boudreaux, "That's part of the scam, if you buy into it and you send them any money, you're never going to see that money again. There are no keys and documents to be exchanged."
The homeowners were alarmed to find, the ad brought those interested in renting to visit their home and explore the grounds without permission.
"The neighbors actually saw people coming and going all day long, that were not with realtors. The sellers, thank goodness, had a video surveillance in place. When they got home they could watch all this on tape," she said.
Boudreaux said it shows the importance of dealing with real estate or property management professionals.
"We see into it and can read through the ad and see several different red flags go up and be able to tell the person, 'No that's a scam,'"she said.
As convenient as it can be to do business online, visiting an established business can help assure a consumer is not being scammed.
Boudreaux said the ad has been removed from Craigslist since she contacted the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office.
She said deputies are doing extra patrols near the house.