Phony ads used to advertise home rentals in St. Louis Area

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FENTON, MO – Another local case has emerged involving a phony advertisement for a home rental.

“They stole my ad completely,” realtor Joanne Goodrick with Grassmuck Realty said.

Goodrick is referring to a Zillow listing for a three-bedroom home in Fenton. Someone lifted the text and images, and created a separate listing on Craigslist.

The same home is now advertised on Craigslist for $790 / month – less than half the actual asking price.

“That’s how the homeowner found out,” Goodrick said. “Somebody called, and said, ‘Hey I saw you dropped your price.’ And she said, ‘What do you mean?’”

Similar schemes have been reported in other cities. Goodrick said it is unclear who is behind this case. A phone number has been traced to Arizona, but authorities have not been able to determine who is responsible.

St. Louis County Police are investigating, she said.

The dilemma is one that warrants a warning to potential homebuyers and would-be renters.

“If it doesn’t seem right. If it’s too good to be true, it is. Please don’t send your money,” she said, referring to ads that require renters wire money.”

She added: “If you can’t see the inside of a house, I would never rent it. Sight unseen. You just don’t know.”

Sellers need to be alert, and conduct a thorough search online about their listings, she said.

“Be careful about putting vacant pictures on. Because [con artists] think the house is vacant, and that they can just get in it,” she said.

The situation for the Fenton home has created headaches for Goodrich and her client.

“The homeowner and I have both tried numerous times to contact Craigslist. We cannot get the post taken down. We have flagged it like they ask you to, saying it will automatically be taken down. It’s still up and we can’t get it down.”