"It could happen anywhere," realtor warns of online scam - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

"It could happen anywhere," realtor warns of online scam


An eastern Iowa real estate company has reported a serious online scam that could jeopardize your personal information.

Jesse McCunniff, realtor at Fusion Realtors in Waterloo, said he's received two phone calls in the past two weeks of people inquiring about vacant properties listed in Waterloo.

McCunniff said a scammer has copied photos of the properties and emailed them to people requesting information from an advertisement on Craigslist.

He said the scammer, posing as a landlord, makes the online listing and emails believable to retrieve personal information and a deposit from potential renters.

"It's starting to get alarming," said McCunniff.

An Oelwein woman, who didn't want to be identified, sent KWWL copies of email exchanges with the scammer.

In the emails, the scammer said he and his wife are missionaries through a church organization in Africa. He said he wasn't concerned about the money, but wanted good people to take care of the home while they finished their missionary work for the next five years.

The woman exchanged personal information with the scammer, but decided to check out the property in person before mailing a deposit.

She said when she arrived to the property, she saw a sign for Fusion Realtors and decided to call them to make sure the rental offer was legitimate.

That's when McCunniff said he was notified of the scam.

"It's so easy, that's the thing," he said. "They could do this literally with hundreds of houses."

McCunniff said most landlords will meet a potential tenant in person for a tour of the property before filling out an application.

"If something seems suspicious, it probably is," he said.

Meanwhile, most police departments say this type of cyber scam is difficult to prosecute.

"There's not much we can do except educate the public and document when it's happening," said Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka.

Trelka said folks who have been scammed can file a police report, but if they lose money in an online scam, it will likely be difficult to get back.

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