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
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
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
about their religious beliefs that are illegal in the
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
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
Staff writer Laura Urseny can be reached at 896-7756 or