Looking for a house to rent around here? Watch out! Scammers could be targeting you and your pocketbook. At least one local home has been used as bait in a Craigslist scam.
The house on 41st Street in Moline has been on the market for sale since January. It is clearly marked with a sign in the yard.
So, when a woman came to the door earlier this month asking to look at it, owner Vicki Knotts was excited.
That excitement soon turned to confusion and fear.
"She said, 'Is this the house that's for rent?' I said, 'No, our house is for sale, there's a sign out front,' and she told me she had an email - she found our house for rent the day before on Craigslist," Knotts explained..
The woman showed Knotts the email messages she had exchanged with the person who posted the ad.
"It had my husband's name on there, even spelled correctly because his name is unusual, and this whole long story about how we were moving to Florida," Knotts recalled.
That part of the scammers' story, at least, is true. Vicki Knotts' husband got a job in Florida, and the family is relocating to be with him.
The thing is, the Knotts home is not for rent - it is for sale only.
And the Knotts family never posted the ad on Craigslist. Some one else did, pretending to be them.
"It does scare me. It scares me a lot," Vicki Knotts said.
Knotts contacted Craigslist and had the scam posting removed. She also posted something of her own, warning people not to fall for the scheme.
Less than a week later, though, she got a call from her realtor, telling her someone else was asking about renting the home after seeing an ad for it on Craigslist and the sign in the front yard with the realtor's contact information.
"She actually had the name of a person, an address, a telephone number, and an amount of money to send to this person to rent this house," said Dan Longley, the Mel Foster Co. realtor/broker who is helping the Knotts sell their home.
"I was just shocked to have such a thing happen, you know, because I had never experienced that before," Longley added.
"It's mind boggling," Knotts said. "You always hear about these things on TV and now all of the sudden it's you. And not only is it you, but it's in small town Moline."
For Vicki Knotts, it feels like an invasion of privacy and identity theft, and it made her worried about her family's security.
"There's nothing I can do," she said. "I just notified the police and asked them to watch my house closely."
And she is asking everyone to be careful, and do their homework - so they don't fall victim to a scam like this.
All Craigslist ads carry a warning: don't wire money or rent a unit sight unseen.
For more information on how you can protect yourself from scams, go to the FBI's consumer protection web site: http://www.LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.com/