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FOX43 Finds Out: Watch out for housing scams

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa -- People thought they were getting a steal on a rental home in the Harrisburg area and it turns out, it was a scam.

These pictures are of a home that's for sale in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County.

It's a three-bedroom, 2 bathroom house which is listed for about $175,000.

The Realtor for the property says the same pictures somehow ended up in a Craigslist Ad for a housing rental.

REMAX Realtor Cheryl Kauffman said,  "I received a phone call from someone who said `is this property for rent?` and I had it listed for sale and I said, 'no.' And this person proceeded to tell me, 'well, they had read on Craigslist...' and I said, 'well I`m sorry, but it`s not for rent."

She even called the owner to ask if he plans on renting out the property.

"I just said `Do you have the property on Craigslist to rent?` And he said, 'Cheryl, I have no idea what you`re talking about.'"

The Realtor sent a message to a person who posted the Craigslist ad.

"And it said in there, `there`s a real estate sign in the front yard, but she`s not honest. Once I have it rented, I will take the real estate sign down.` And I emailed him and said, 'guess who this is? It`s the realtor!' Well, I never heard from him."

FOX43 sent him an email and we got a response.

The man is claiming to be Robert Lewis Junior, which is the name of the actual homeowner.

He also says he's been living in Georgia and is going to be there for six years.

The realtor says that is not true.

The Craigslist ad poster did also add photos of the property, which the realtor says she took.

"He used my photos off of the multi list," said Kauffman.

The realtor says people should be aware the listing was a scam just because the rent price was very low for the Harrisburg area.

"He was advertising it to rent for $750 a month. It`s a 3-bedroom 2-bath ranch home. It would not rent for $750 a month."

The problem? The realtor says there is not a real way to stop the scammers because the majority of buyers are looking online.

"I have to put my homes on the multi list. They go on many, many websites. So, we want them on there. That`s the way we get our buyers."

She suggests people always call a realtor or real estate agency to see if any listing is legitimate.

"Hopefully people keep calling their realtor or somebody to see if it`s a scam or not."

The Federal Trade Commission warns that summer time is the peak of scammers trying to trick you with fake rentals.

Here are some ways to avoid falling for a rental scam:

Don`t wire money or pay with a prepaid or gift card for a vacation rental because once the scammer gets the money, it's almost impossible to get it back.

Don`t be rushed into a decision. If it seems like someone is pressuring you to make a decision and send money, it's probably best to back off.

Look out for super cheap rates for premium vacation properties. Below-market rent can be a sign of a scam. Do some extra research to confirm the deal is legitimate before jumping in.

Get a copy of the contract before you send any deposit money. Check that the address of the property really exists. If the property is located in a resort, call the front desk and confirm the location of the property and other details on the contract.

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out. Send a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com.