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Buyer beware: Officials warn of real estate scams

Eyewitness News investigates a Craigslist scam involving an ad for a house rental in Bakersfield, Calif. The house is actually for sale, and the man who claimed to be renting the home does not own the home. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A Bakersfield woman almost sent $1,800 to a man in Texas who claims to be renting out a property in northwest Bakersfield.

Erica Moreno was looking for a new home in Bakersfield, when she came across the Craigslist ad. It was posted four days ago.

Moreno said the man from Texas claimed to be the property owner and wanted her to send money to him online.

The house was in northwest Bakersfield and the ad said it was for rent for $900 a month.

Moreno said she did her research, and his story seemed to check out. She decided to drive to the property since the offer seemed too good to be true.

"I mean, the truth is to get a house for $900, I kind of went in knowing that's not going to exist anymore," Moreno said.

At the property, she noticed the house had a sign on the door that said it just had a pest control service. She called the number, and they had never heard of the man who claimed to be the property owner.

That is when Moreno got suspicious and called Eyewitness News.

The house is actually for sale by Re/Max Golden Empire, which said the house is not for rent. The real estate agents confirmed that this is a scam, and the man who claims to be the property owner is not who he says he is. The ad has since been flagged on Craigslist.

"A home of this size, three bedrooms, three baths, you wold expect it to be more than $900," Terri Bender, Re/Max Realtor, said. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Bender said to make sure you do your homework before handing over money, so that you are protected and make sure the person you talk to is the actual property owner or Realtor.

"Stay away from anything where you wire money," she said. "It's cash. Once it's gone, you will never see it again."

The Bakersfield Police Department said since January 2013, there have been about 80 cases of real estate fraud reported to them. BDP officials said they take these cases seriously and encourage people to report them.

"We've seen several of them throughout the years that we responded to and investigated," Sgt. Ryan Kroeker said.

Kroeker said the technology today can make it easier for people to get away with scams like this.

"It's one of these crimes, a white collar crime, that people can exchange money very easily and often times people don't know who the suspect is, because they're not giving their true identity," Kroeker said.

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