A local Realtor, who happens to be the 2008 president of the Chico Association of Realtors, was exposed to a new take on Internet scamming involving real estate.

Debbie Brodie of Realty World Choice Properties discovered a house she was representing was the target of a scam when she started getting calls from people asking about renting the place. Brodie was trying to sell the house for the owner.

Brodie discovered that scammers were promoting the three-bedroom house for rent on Craig's List, an Internet-based ad service. Scammers picked up the house photo from Brodie's Multiple Listing Service information, and included her name in a e-mail address that wasn't hers. The scammers were trying to get $600 a month for rent, with a $200 deposit, and may have been asked for two months rent in advance.

Brodie uncovered the scam when she was called by potential renters who had searched for her name on the Internet.

"Those people told me I was identified as a missionary from this area sent to Nigeria, and needing to quickly rent this house out."

She said about 10 people have contacted her about the house, and she didn't know how many more had actually communicated with the scammer via the e-mail address.

Reading an e-mail from the scammer forwarded to her by one of the callers, she commented on red flags it contained.

The flawed grammar of the message points to an author unfamiliar with the English language, and there are questions asked potential renters


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about their religious beliefs that are illegal in the U.S.

Brodie thinks the scammers were trying to get personal information as well, possibly for identity theft reasons.

Additionally, a man called her after being asked to send $1,200 to the scammer. A call to that person by the E-R has not been returned.

Brodie said she made a police report, and checked Craig's List, which has already removed the listing.

Butte County District Attorney's Office investigator Lamar Stewart reminds, "It's something we say over and over, 'If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.'"

He said the DA's office wants to hear about frauds, but there's not really a victim until someone falls for a scam.

Stewart recommends reviewing the District Attorney's Web site. The District Attorney's Office also has a toll-free number for reporting suspected fraud, 1-866-323-7283. Information is also on the Web site www.buttecounty.net/da

The Web site also summarizes current and past scams that have been reported in Butte County.

In addition, the District Attorney's Office will sponsor an identity theft and fraud symposium in May in Oroville.

The Chico Association of Realtors doesn't have any other reports of similar fraud, according to Peggy Mead of the association.

According to www.ripoffreport.com, the rental-Nigeria mission scenario is a common theme. The wording on three examples on the Rip Off Report are nearly exactly like the one Brodie received.

Staff writer Laura Urseny can be reached at 896-7756 or lurseny@chicoer.com.