Buying a home is supposed to be an exciting time; however, that was not the case for one Abilene family which fell victim to a scam that is fairly common.
Aqrica and Daqualis Hooker said they could not wait to move their children into a bigger home. Last month, Aqrica said she found a listing for a home on Garden Grove Lane in south Abilene on Zillow.com. She said she provided her contact information and was soon contacted by who she thought was the realtor. She said she was asked to put down a deposit and wired approximately $1,200 to the imposter.
“We were waiting and waiting, no keys, no anything and so that made me think...OK something is wrong, so I started calling the realtor, then I started calling the police department and that's when we found out it was an actual scam,” Aqrica said. “They actually impersonated the realtors and they have all their information which makes it seem legit.”
Though she is thankful her bank helped her family with the loss, Aqrica said the incident makes it difficult to trust anybody because “it’s emotionally scarring.”
A Better Business Bureau spokesman said scammers often hi-jack legitimate real estate listings from websites to make their scam look credible.
Daqualis said the imposters even used religion to target them, posing as missionaries who wanted to the home to go to a “God-fearing” family.
“They're making a killing on victimizing people who work hard for their money,” Daqualis said. “Just think of an elderly person on a fixed income or something of that sort….that's just the icing on the cake and that's too many people, that's just unreal and I don’t know how they sleep at night and feel comfortable...If that what makes you feel comfortable, God bless you, I hope you have a good life, but either you deal with it here or you deal with it in the afterlife.”
Abilene police said somebody picked up the wired money in Amarillo. The investigation is being forwarded to authorities in Lubbock where a possible suspect lives.
Marilyn Goodin, the Senter, Realtors agent who is legitimately selling the home, provided KTXS with the following statement: “We want the community to be aware this scam is real and happened in Abilene, Texas. Two families this week were victims in this rental scam! Fortunately, they realized what was happening and did not send additional money. They took all documents immediately to the police department. We are all working with the police to get to the bottom of this! Please be aware that a sign in the front yard that says "For Sale" does not mean it is for rent! Some websites have incorrect information, so please check with your real estate agent or broker to verify the status of the property! And the best advice we can give is NEVER send money or a cashiers check in the mail to a post office box---if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!!”
As of 5 p.m. Friday, Zillow representatives have not yet returned a call to KTXS regarding the case.
For more information from the BBB about rental scams, click here.