Real estate scam takes both renters and landlords for a ride

Real estate scam takes both renters and landlords for a ride

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman wants to warn the public about a real estate scam that's seemingly creeping into Columbus.

Within the last week, Countryman said there have been at least three different cases leaving both the tenant and the landlord with the short end of the stick.

Broker Jim Evans at Fountain City Realty on Wynnton Road in Columbus said the scam that his company fell prey to came to light when a tenant called the office for maintenance but according to office records, that property was still vacant.

"Somebody posed as a landlord and rented one of our apartments, met the guy and had a bogus lease, had him sign the lease, gave him a copy of it, collected $550 from him and left," explained Evans.

When Evans and his staff started to back track the situation, the office log book showed that someone checked out the key using the proper identification; however, the phone number given is no longer a working number. A copy of the ID has been turned over to authorities.

"He'd check out a key to the property and made a copy of it and put a listing on Craigslist," added Evans.

Marshal Greg Countryman's office is also investigating the real estate related scams. He told News Leader 9's Roslyn Giles about another recent scam which involved the impersonator posting his phone number of a broker's yard sign-advertising a rental property.

"They {Sovereign Citizens} tell the potential renters to meet them at the bank, they took cash money and they gave them a fake lease," said Countryman.

When the person inquired about renting the property, they had no idea they were dealing with the wrong person.

The unidentified broker in the case filed a complaint with the Municipal Court Clerk's office. Deputies served papers on the tenant to vacate the property, but the case ended up in Judge Steven Smith's court on Tuesday.

"By the time the matter had gotten to me, that first month's rent, which had been paid, that month was coming to an end so realistically, they weren't losing the rent that they had paid. Of course, they have the hassle of moving in and then moving right back out," explained Smith.

Countryman also offers this advice for potential renters to avoid any pitfalls.

"You need to know who you're dealing with. You need to have a photo ID if you have to take a picture of that person do that, don't take an ID card and don't deal in cash."

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