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Spotting real estate scams

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NEW YORK (PIX11)– New York is one of the top states for rental scams according to real estate agencies. And with thousands of dollars on the line it’s lucrative for thieves and devastating for the victims.

It’s idyllic neighborhood of Hollis Hills, Queens, tidy one family homes in a leafy suburb and home to one nasty rental scam.

Ernest Salameier owns the Stewart Road home. He put the brick one family with backyard for sale on the real estate site Zillow.

What he didn’t know was that scammers enjoyed his home too. So much so, they stole the pictures and listing–then put up their own ad to rent it for just $2,800 a month with an incredible security deposit of $800, looking to lure bargain hungry renters.

We texted the man claiming to be the real owner in a follow-up call Anthony tells us he was in Alabama with his family, before heading to Africa for a work re-assignment. Anthony promised us keys to the home after we wired a security deposit of $800. The pictures were a renter’s dream: brand new kitchen, gleaming wood floors, bonus room and even a coveted spacious backyard.

“This is not my kitchen,” Salameier said.

PIX 11 News began to ask Anthony specific questions that made his fake rental claims tumble like a house of cards.

Robb Pair, the president of Manhattan’s Association of Realtors has seen scams explode with online rentals and home sales.

“People that do come in our office are often people that try it on their own,” Pair said. “And have been scammed and now they’re going to pay more to have us help them.”

“It’s obviously bad,” he said

Steps to protect yourself:

Meet in person

If doing a sub lease, have a lease with name on it and match it to identify to verify

Check that keys to front door actually work

See ID to match to deed or public records search of renting a home from owner

Talk to neighbors to verify that owners are actually the real deal

If gut tells you too good to be true…it usually is!