Bossier City family falls victim to bogus Craigslist home rental - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Bossier City family falls victim to bogus Craigslist home rental ad

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BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) -

A Bossier City family learned the hard way what it's like to deal with a bogus home rental after losing more than $1,000 in a property nightmare.

Husband and wife Jack and Wendy Harvill said a South Bossier City home they looked into renting ended up being a bogus deal.

"It was just nuts! You would have never figured in a million years it would have been a scam," said Jack Harvill.

It all started when the couple began a search to find a place to live for their 19-year-old son and his friend.

"Basically it was going to be hard to rent a home due to their age, so he was going to have to have mom and dad's help," Harvill said.

The couple turned to Craigslist, a classified ad website, and that's when they found what they thought was a perfect home in South Bossier City. The ad claimed rent was only $700 a month, utilities included.

"The home looked really nice, totally updated, recently remodeled," Harvill said.

The woman who claimed to be renting out the house wouldn't let them see the inside of it, but told them to look through the windows to check it out.

"It wasn't clicking to me that anything was wrong," Harvill said.

After filling out applications, Harvill felt comfortable wiring money to the so-called "homeowner" because of her professionalism.

"It was so precise, how she was doing this," he said.

First, the supposed landlord asked for a $700 wire transfer to an address in Arkansas for the security deposit.

"That again, no red flag to me," Harvill said.

Then they were asked to wire more money, the first month's rent of $700, but this time to an address in Nigeria.

"I still didn't think anything was wrong," he said.

But the red flags did fly when Harvill didn't receive keys to the house. When he asked about it, the woman asked him for another $700, and that's when the family knew, they had been fooled out of $1,400.

"It is a sad thing, with all the scamming, the stealing, it's a sad thing," said Wendy Harvill.

Like the Harvills, other people also saw the ad and decided to come check out the house. But unlike the Harvills, they noticed a real estate sign. Even though the supposed landlord gave specific instructions to ignore those real estate signs, some of those people decided to call a number listed on the sign to make sure the home was the real deal.

"I immediately started receiving phone calls from people wanting to know if the house was for rent," said Marlene Simmons of Diamond Realty, who is the legitimate agent selling this house.

"I was very angry," she said. "I responded back when I sent them [the Craigslist poster] an email saying, 'You should be ashamed of yourself! This is fraudulent, please take down your post immediately!'"

The post wasn't taken down, so Simmons took action on her own in hopes of saving someone else from falling victim to the ad.

"I felt like I needed to come to this house and add another sign and indicate 'house for sale.' I also put a flier box on the property," she said.

There are legitimate real estate agents posting their homes on Craigslist, Simmons said. The real agents will always let you see inside the house.

"You want to see the house before you rent it," she said, but recommends when people are looking online, they pay attention to warning signs. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Meanwhile, the Harvills want their story to be a warning to others.

"Be very careful, it can happen to anyone," Jack said. "I never thought in a million years it would happen to me."

In the meantime, their son will have to spend a little more time living with mom and dad.

The family spoke to the Bossier City Police Department about filing a report, but ultimately decided not to go forward with it.

A police department spokesman said they are limited on what they can do when money is wired overseas.

KSLA News 12 was unable to reach the woman the Harvills said they were dealing with.

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