An Oahu real estate agent is taking action against online thieves after learning someone is using her name to scam others out of money.
The real estate agent reached out to KHON2, using our Report It feature, and asked us for help in setting the record straight.
Someone is posting fake ads under her name on Craigslist.
She said several people have fallen victim to the scam resulting in thousands of dollars lost.
Christine Muth says it’s been happening for at least a year and the real estate agent is concerned, not only for her reputation, but for the people that scammers are preying on.
Muth has been selling properties across Oahu for the last 20 years.
“On a daily basis nearly, I get someone [contacting] me to ask me if i’ve been the one communicating with them about the rental,” Muth said.
Only problem is, Muth doesn’t handle rental properties at all.
She realized someone was posting fake rental listings after receiving a phone call about a man who showed up to his new home only to find out it was actually a hotel.
Since then she’s learned of dozens of others who were scammed or almost fell victim.
“The last one was the worst which is why I reached out to you because she had sent three months rent and a deposit. The building did exist, but the unit number didn’t,” Muth explained.
Muth reached out to Honolulu police, but a suspect hasn’t been identified.
The Hawaii Better Business Bureau told KHON2 this isn’t the first time they’ve heard of this type of identity theft.
“They’re using images and logos of well-known [real estate agents], or realty companies in order to get you to click on the link and call their number,” Jason Kama, with the Hawaii BBB, said. “Of course the prices are very different. Everyone knows the first thing you think of is, ‘I have to act fast, I have to get in on this price. And that’s what the scammers on banking on. You acting fast and not thinking it through.”
The BBB said it’s likely a scam if there’s bad grammar or spelling in listings but that wasn’t the case here.
“They’re very cunning and actually I’ve seen the emails that they send and it’s super legitimate looking – super,” Muth said. “I have an ad on Craigslist saying that I’m the real Christine Muth and if you’re communicating with Christine M Rentals, this is not a legitimate rental.”
So how can you keep yourself from falling victim to a property scam?
The Honolulu Board of Realtors recommends always meeting face to face. If you haven’t signed a lease, don’t send any money, and always trust your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Unfortunately there’s not a sure way to prevent this from continuing so along with that warning post on Craigslist, Muth said she spends time each day looking for fake rental listings in her name and flagging them.
If you want to verify if a listing is legitimate, the BBB encourages people to go to the real estate agent’s website and call the numbers listed there.