By Geena Martinez
MIDLAND/ODESSA - It's a story NewsWest 9 has told you about before but the problem appears to be growing. Scammers are targeting people in our area who are desperately looking for a home.
The crooks are using the Internet to find their victims.
If you're looking for a place to live in the Basin, Craigslist has several pages of homes available for rent but are they really?
Scammers are posting fake ads of real homes to con people out of cash.
"They take photos and even tag lines off of legitimate trustworthy web sites for homes for sale or wherever they get them," Tyler Patton with the Better Business Bureau, said.
It's an old trick that's spreading across the area.
Patton said they've received as many as 600 complaints just in the last year.
"For our size market, that's a very large number," he said. "They're taking advantage of the desperation people feel to find a place to live."
NewsWest 9 replied to five different Craigslist ads for rental homes in Midland and Odessa.
Of those five, three of them appeared to be scams. They all had a similar story, the fake homeowners had to leave the area for work. One said he and his wife moved to California. The other two said they were transferred to West Africa and even described their job in a long paragraph, although most of it had choppy grammar.
The same person wrote in the email if you see other postings with the same address, it's nothing to be suspicious of. He claims he tried selling through a realtor but they were being unreasonable.
Patton said these are huge red flags to look for.
"The person who is renting the home is not available or not willing to show you the place in person," Patton said. "They're out of the country, they're out on vacation, they're somewhere."
Another similarity, the posters said they have the keys and official documents but those can easily be shipped if you send the deposit.
"If you mail the deposit. you never get the key and you're basically out the money you send," Patton said.
And for good measure, the con artists all said they weren't after the money. They just wanted a responsible person to take care of their home.
"In a market like ours, where homes, there is a shortage, it's gonna be a continuing problem," Patton said.
NewsWest 9 called a number that was e-mailed in response to one of the ads.
The person in the voicemail didn't give a name.