Scammer uses coronavirus fears to target renters in Hampton Roads

Posted at 3:13 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 22:36:57-04

NORFOLK, Va. — A Hampton Roads realtor says a scammer tried to use coronavirus fears to scam people out of hundreds of dollars and personal information.

Realtor Katrina Venable is the listing agent for a property on Courtney Avenue in Norfolk that she is trying to sell. She says she was contacted about the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house this week by someone who saw the home for rent on Craigslist.

The problem is - the home isn’t for rent, and she didn’t post it on Craigslist.

“It just really got under my skin because they’re saying they can’t show the property because of the coronavirus, and it’s just preying on people that are unsuspecting,” said Venable.

Venable says the scam artist tried to con people into forking over their cash by telling people coronavirus concerns are the reason they couldn’t walk through the home.

The scammer spoke to people by phone and through email—including Venable— telling them they should look into the windows of the home to see inside, and he would mail them the keys if they filled out an application and paid almost $1,800 for first month’s rent and a security deposit.

At least three people interested in the fake rental Googled the address and called Venable after seeing her name attached to the listing.

The scammer’s number on the listing no longer works. The listing was also taken off Craigslist, but the scammer was still sending emails trying to get people to send money and fill out a rental application Thursday afternoon.

The application was also part of the scam because it asks for personal information like a Social Security number, date of birth and address.

“Do not send money anywhere to anybody if you can’t see the property. That is key - or at least if someone can’t get in there and do a virtual tour,” said Venable.

Venable says people should always Google the address, call the realtor if there is one, and most importantly, never send money to anyone they haven’t actually met.

She offers these words of warning: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

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