Realtors warn public about local property scammers

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Anita Dawkins is the owner of Community First Realty, and a prominent business owner.

She recently posted a public service announcement warning people of property scammers!

Anita Dawkins, Community First Real Estate
"I have had several people call me, and then one lady came in and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to get her money back.. that she felt like she had been scammed."

Here's how it works: Someone poses as a property owner on a third party site like Craigslist and Zillow.

Then asks for unusually steep security deposits, and sometimes, rent in advance..

At first glance, the listings look legitimate to everyone but an expert.

Sharon Davis, Realtor, E.X.P. Realty
"About 3 weeks, 4 weeks ago now.. i started receiving inquiries from people saying hey i saw this property for rent or for lease on Craigslist -- and I immediately let them know that that must be a scam because this house is exclusively for sale on the market."

She says when confronted, scammers go as far as saying the real information is fake.

So what are the red flags you should look for?

Wes Grant, Broker and Property Manager, James Grant Realty
"If they see a house and it says for sale, it's for sale.. a lot of people will go by a house and see online that it's for rent.. and if it's for sale its for sale it's not for rent so that right there should be a big red flag anyway."

He suggests asking a reputable real estate company to confirm the status of the house, and also reminds people to look for an MLS number like this one. That would verify if the property is for sale or for rent.

"We have people that are taking advantage of those people.. so we need to make everyone aware in our community.. so we can avoid this."

Investigators say catching the crooks is almost impossible.

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