Posted: Nov 3, 2013 4:18 PM by Brenda Bassett - MTN News
MISSOULA - It's a disturbing new addition to scamming and it's hitting Western Montana - online ad's telling strangers to let themselves into people's homes.
Reporter Brenda Bassett west on special assignment to see why these scams are so shocking.
It's your home - your safe-haven, but what if the very place you wake up every morning and put your kids to sleep at night was being targeted on the Internet?
"It was terrifying, and just to see this strange man standing right here looking around and [I] was just like 'what are you doing in here? Who are you?'" recalled Missoula resident Tara, who didn't want her last name used.
It's not a brand-new scam, but it is one that's become more aggressive. Without knocking or ringing the door bell, strangers just walk into your home and start looking around.
They aren't burglars, their victims too - they are just in the market for a new home, and they're about to be scammed.
"It's really invasive, and I don't know - it's just really alarming that people would do this for money - scams, and put people's safety and privacy in jeopardy," Brita of Missoula, who also asked we didn't use her last name, told us.
The two friends - Tara and Brita - rent a home in Missoula, and they've always felt very safe in their neighborhood. They also aren't looking at moving anytime soon, but recently someone posted on Craigslist that their house was for sale.
"They told us they had seen an ad, and it was for a man who was moving to Africa and wanted to sell his house - and if they gave him the money he would just send them a key," Tara recalled.
Chelsea MacQuire with the Better Business Bureau warns these listings are easy to duplicate.
"It's crazy. I mean, with technology and with how easy it is to use Craigslist. When it comes to houses for sale, you can copy that listing and put it on Craigslist in just a few minutes," she explained.
That's exactly how it works - a home is listed at a great price, and renters or buyers want to jump on the deal. Emails are oftentimes exchanged, and they're told to drive by the property and walk on in.
Many times they're even sent a lease agreement and then asked to send their first payment.
"They try to pull emotion, and pull at people's emotion - and that's when they make bad decisions," MacQuire warned.
"One of the girls that stopped by - [she] was a college girl, our age - so that just goes to show you it can happen to anyone," Brita told us.
MacQuire says with changing technology everyone is a target, but you can combat these scams by being diligent. She says folks need to do some homework, adding that a legitimate listing will be easy to research.
MacQuire also warns not to don't act too quickly, adding that a good landlord is also looking for a good renter, and they won't want to make a hasty decision. Finally, never wire money.
"Be extra cautious and know that another offer will come around, another rental will come around. You never have to act immediately," MacQuire concluded.
Anyone who has become a victim of this type scam should contact the Better Business Bureau as well as local authorities.