Real estate agent warns of rental property scam in Jackson

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
This house at 1010 W. Main St. in Jackson, which is for sale, is seen Tuesday. The house has been listed as rental property on craigslist.org, which a local real estate agent says is a scam. (Fred Lynch)

If someone calling himself Brian Lisiecki tries to rent you a home in Jackson, buyer beware. The home is not for rent and the personal information he collects may be used to steal your identity, according to one local real estate agent.

Liz Lockhart, owner of Riverbend Realty, said Tuesday that she has received three calls about a rental ad seen on craigslist.org for a brick home at 1010 W. Main St. in Jackson. She is selling the property and said that ads to rent it are fraudulent.

Photos have been copied from online real estate listings, she said. The house in the ad is real, but other details are not.

One of the signs that something is amiss is that the rental price is significantly less than market value.

"If it seems like an incredibly good bargain, that is the first sign that it may be a fraud," Lockhart said.

Lockhart said she has been contacted by renters trying to figure out the property's status, since it is listed for sale.

"They usually end up calling me eventually, but in two instances, they've already corresponded with this person," Lockhart said. "In one instance we recommended she contact the credit bureau and put fraud alerts on her credit cards and her bank account.

"The very first thing anybody ought to do when they are considering renting a house off of craigslist is that if the house is also for sale, they should contact the listing agent and make sure that it's actually for rent," she said.

"It's also a sign if the person you are communicating with says there is no information available from any other source, that you have to talk just to them," she said.

Lockhart said there should be a local name, number and address of the person from whom you are renting.

"You have to physically meet this person who is renting this house to you or you are at risk," Lockhart said.

Lockhart said she has twice contacted craigslist.org to remove the ad. Tuesday afternoon, there was an alert posted by a user of the website indicating the ad was a scam.

The ad said Lisiecki and his wife had traveled to West Africa to work for an HIV education and prevention program, and wanted to rent the property for the next four or five years while they are gone. The phone number associated with the ad is 234-708-378-6522.

In reality, Lockhart said, Lisiecki is in Nigeria and requested one potential renter's Social Security number for a credit check.

"I think they will move off of this house now, but it will pop up again somewhere else. That's what typically happens," Lockhart said. "I think what we have here is a straightforward attempt at an identity theft."

In other cases, interested renters are asked to call a number that charges a toll, which is not disclosed, she said.

Lockhart said she reported the matter to Jackson police.

"Unfortunately, with these Internet scams, they are very difficult to track," said Rodney Barnes, spokesman for the Jackson Police Department.

Few cases are successfully prosecuted, he said, so the department tries to educate consumers to be suspicious of Internet ads, online auctions and offers by mail that seem too good to be true.

"The research on the end of the consumer is always key to preventing those things," Barnes said. "Our best approach in just prevention."

Barnes said officers keep up with current fraud reports, and that anyone who encounters a questionable ad or offer should contact police.

In its real estate section, craigslist warns users of potential fraud attempts and provides contact information for national reporting agencies, such as the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center. More information is available at semo.craigslist.org/about/scams and at ic3.gov.

An email to craigslist.org Tuesday afternoon received no reply.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

1010 W. Main St., Jackson, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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