Creating the fake home listings online was easy enough.
Real estate scammers in Springfield, Massachusetts, simply had to browse Zillow and other websites to find photos of the homes. Then the scam artists would post those pictures on classified sites like Craigslist, falsely advertising the properties as if they were the people putting them up for sale or rent, according to police.
Sometimes the scammers went even further, police said. One broke into a home to switch the locks so that unsuspecting renters could be given real keys after falling for their scam.
But the scam fell apart on Monday — with the help of an alert, quick-thinking realtor, according to police.
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The realtor had been putting out business signs at a home in Springfield on Monday when three people who had been taken in by the scam showed up. They told the realtor they were there to move in, police said.
Soon after, the scammers themselves arrived at the home, too — ready to let the duped renters into the residence, according to police.
After noticing an actual real estate agent at the home, the two scammers — Alberto Ramirez, 33, and Yaliber Aguiar, 26 — sped off in their car, police said. But before they got away, the realtor dialed 911 and reported them.
Officers arrested Ramirez and Aguiar just 20 minutes later, according to police.
Authorities said they suspect even more people are involved in that and similar schemes in the area.
Ramirez faces charges of larceny over $1,200, driving with a suspended license and driving with a rejection sticker, police said. Aguiar faces one count of larceny over $1,200.
“If you notice your home or a home that you are selling/renting is receiving suspicious inquiries, the locks have been changed or you see your home for sale/rent on a website that you did not approve, you need to call your local police department and make a police report,” police wrote in a Facebook post Thursday.
Police also said to be careful dealing with people with out of state area codes, to avoid sending money online and to make sure you’re communicating with an actual realtor or landlord.
“If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is,” police wrote.