Online rental scam leaving Birmingham families out thousands of dollars

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 7:50 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re on your side with a warning about a new rental scam happening right now in Birmingham that could cost you thousands and leave you with no place to live.

Troy Gagliardi owns Sayco Homes and they have around 100 rental properties throughout Birmingham. He said about half a dozen times now, a scammer has copied his online listing, pretended to own the house, and stolen thousands of dollars from potential renters.

What’s happening is the scammer is taking his listing off Zillow and putting it on Craigslist with a new phone number and a cheaper price, so renters call him instead. If renters notice the price difference on the two ads, the scammer has an answer.

“He says ‘well I’m the owner and that’s the real estate company, so we are saving you money, and if you give me 800 dollars right now, we will give it to you’,” Gagliardi said.

Gagliardi had lock boxes on every house and for potential renters to view the listing, all they have to do is reserve time with a guest card on Gagliardi’s website. They are then vetted and sent a code to see the house, with the key inside the lock box.

“This person or people have been putting in fake guest cards, getting a lock box code, using that code when people call them,” he said.

That’s how the scammer is getting the renters in and it’s not till someone else tries to view the home that Gagliardi realizes it’s not vacant anymore. He says it can take up to two weeks in between showings.

“Someone will go view the property and they will call me and say someone was already in the house,” he said. “So, we do an inspection and they’re there.”

But, the scammer never provides a lease, so legally, the renters are now trespassing.

“We have to deal with them trying to stay in the house because now they know the real owner or they have to vacate, but it’s a problem for people because they lose a lot of money,” Gagliardi said.

It can be a dangerous situation because Gagliardi doesn’t know who is living in his rentals and some have been severely damaged. He’s taken his listing offline for now and is changing over his security, but he wants families to be aware.

“If you find an ad on Craigslist, 99 percent of the time it isn’t true. More over, if someone tells you to wire money without a lease, it’s really not true.”

He said one common trend in this scam is the price is always just a little cheaper than homes in the area are going for, so that could be a red flag to watch out for.


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