Fake Bear Hollow apartment listing nets $6,500 for scammer
One Bear Hollow apartment was the bait for at least two scams recently, bilking would-be renters out of thousands of dollars, according to reports from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the victims wired the scammer more than $3,000, but was unable to make contact with the person when he showed up to the apartment to move in.
After waiting a few hours, the man reported the suspected fraud to the Sheriff’s Office, according to Lt. Andrew Wright.
“This individual got at least two people for at least $6,500,” Wright said of the fraudster. “The likelihood of us getting that money back to them — there’s not a high likelihood.”
He added that the Sheriff’s Office will work hard to try to track down the thief, but scammers often take steps to hide their identity and are in foreign countries.
In the other case, the victim was moving to town from the East Coast and had wired $2,500 to the fraudster. Wright said it appeared to be the same listing and included the same contact information, indicating it is likely the same person perpetrating the crime.
Wright said the scammer apparently took the information from a legitimate posting and then reposted it. The fraudulent posts appeared on Zillow and Craigslist, according to the reports.
Wright suggested renters and landlords follow a few steps to avoid getting trapped in a similar predicament, which he said unfortunately happens regularly to people looking to relocate to the area.
He advised a person posting a property online to put watermarks on their photos, so it is obvious if they are re-used in another post.
For potential renters, Wright suggested insisting on a phone call or, if possible, an in-person meeting. He advised against relying solely on electronic communication.
He referenced a recent study by the Better Business Bureau that indicated many of these types of scams have been traced back to the West African country of Nigeria.
In some cases, the scammers are getting would-be renters to fill out rental applications that include personal information. Wright said that opens the door to more serious crimes like identity theft.
“It’s really scary if you’re the victim,” Wright said. “Scammers know — it’s a resort town. People are coming from all over the world.”
He added that the holidays are a particularly prevalent time for this type of crime.
“It’s the time of year when the world falls in love, but in law enforcement, it’s the time of year people get scammed,” he said.
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Deputies found Baird’s vehicle at a trailhead in the Sawtooth National Forest about 20 miles northwest of Ketchum.