By Geena Martinez
MIDLAND - Con artists are looking to cash in on the local housing crisis. A housing scam is reappearing in the Basin and officials are warning potential renters and buyers to be alert.
Like so many others in Midland/Odessa, Kallie Hughes is looking for a new place to call home.
"I have an 18-month-old son and I would love for him to have a yard and a bigger house," Hughes said.
Last week she started her search and came across a great rental home on the web site www.Zillow.com.
"It was like a thousand dollars for like a three bedroom," Hughes said.
Hughes exchanged a few emails and then phone calls with who she thought was the real property owner. Turns out it was a con artist on the other end.
"The guy called me and he told me that I didn't have to do an application and that they were just looking for somebody to take care of their home," Hughes said.
It's an old scam that's making a round here in the Basin.
"If I sent them a $700 money gram, they would mail me the keys the next day," Hughes said.
The thieves make fake listings of real homes for sale but instead they take your money, never to be seen again.
Tyler Patton with the Better Business Bureau said he's seen it before.
"I suspect people are targeting this area because of the housing shortage," Patton said. "It would take advantage of people who are desperate for homes."
Now Hughes wants to alert others.
She said the emails were detailed and seemed legitimate.
"We're looking for a God-fearing family, we have kids," Hughes recalled. "We want somebody to take care of our house like we did because the last tenants who lived there trashed it."
The scammer even used the names of the real homeowners in their phone call and emails.
But the money gram was a red flag so Hughes called the real estate agent who told her the truth.
"They said that house was only for sale and that they'd had like 45 calls," Hughes said.
Patton said there are several ways to protect yourself.
"Never send or agree to mail any kind of money for a real estate transaction," he said.
Patton said always meet with the realtor or homeowner in person first.
And like the old adage goes, if it's too good to be true it probably is.
"If you have a bad feeling, don't do it," Hughes said.