‘What in the world?’: A warning about an online property listing scam

LONGWOOD, Fla. — Action 9 has a warning about fake property listings. A local woman was shocked to see her home listed for sale online and she worries some consumers might fall victim to the scam.

Linda Lucas has lived in her Longwood home for 30 years. A few weeks ago, a realtor knocked on her door.

“He asked if my house was for sale and I said, ‘No, it isn’t,’ and he said, ‘Well, it’s listed. It’s listed on Zillow,’” Lucas said.

She said he showed her the listing on his phone. Her home was listed as ‘for sale by owner’ for $200,000, well below the market value of homes in her neighborhood.

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“I’m like, ‘What in the world is this? Why? Who’s done this?’” Lucas said.

Typically, scammers will list homes they don’t own so they can collect money upfront for deposits to either rent or purchase the property.

Action 9 went online and asked for more information about Lucas’ listing. Then, someone replied with a voice message and text pretending to be from Zillow.

Todd Ulrich tried calling the number back, but no one answered.

“Be very, very careful and presume that it’s a scam,” said real estate attorney Barry Miller.

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Miller says consumers should always check with the property appraiser to verify who really owns the home, and says money should never be sent through payment apps.

“A lot of these fraudsters will have the property very attractively priced and they want to do the deal quickly and they’ll have some sort of story or an excuse,” Miller said.

According to Lucas, she reported the issue with her home to Zillow daily, but the listing wasn’t taken down.

“It’s very frustrating and it’s a little scary because I’m afraid that somebody is actually going to bite and appear at my door thinking they’re going to rent my property,” Lucas said.

Action 9 contacted Zillow, and the listing was removed that same day. Zillow said they take fraud very seriously, go to great lengths to police activity and remove any fraudulent postings as quickly as possible. The company also recommends homeowners claim their property on Zillow, giving them more control.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.