MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - If you are looking to buy or rent a home in South Carolina, be cautious of the new internet scams popping up on one popular online marketing site.
When you are looking to buy or rent, or just need a place to stay when visiting your family over the holiday season, Craigslist can be a great resource.
It's also becoming a quick favorite for internet scammers, which have increased significantly in recent years. The best way to remain vigilant and avoid becoming a potential victim is to know what you're up against.
The newest Craigslist scam follow a familiar pattern that seems "too good to be true."
Potential victims are contacted by an individual in a foreign country by either email or phone and subsequently wire money to an unknown third person in an overseas location. Perpetrators implement the scam by researching homes listed for sale on public search sites, such as www.trulia.com.
They copy the pictures and descriptions verbatim, and then post the information onto Craigslist under available housing rentals, without the consent or knowledge of Craigslist and the "true" owner.
Real Estate Expert Jerry Pinkas said he has seen the scam affect some of his clients first-hand.
"You know about every other week we get somebody who calls into the office asking us, 'Can we go look at this property?' or 'How much is this?' or other questions about a property when they're obviously getting scammed out. People continue to send money and lose money," Pinkas said.
Carmen Gambino fell victim to this scam on the other side. She recently rented a home in Conway and shortly after she moved in, people started showing up on her doorstep asking to see the place. Gambino realized the home had fraudulently been put up for rent on Craigslist, for a much cheaper price than she was paying. Gambino said she contacted her rental company, who denied posting the ad on Craigslist. Gambino said she contacted the person who posted the ad via the telephone number listed and the man on the other end didn't answer any of her questions. She said she reported the scam and in recent weeks, hasn't had any issues. But, she said she is still afraid because that unknown person has access to her personal information, like her address.
"We're just hoping that somebody can catch this guy who's doing this to me and my house," Gambino said.
To avoid these types of scams, never wire funds to an unknown person and only conduct business with individuals they can meet in person.
If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, file an internet crime complaint with the FBI to ensure the extent of this scheme can be accurately evaluated.