Police investigate real estate fraud posted on Trulia
South Bend Police are investigating what real estate experts are calling "a sophisticated scam" that took a single mother for $1,000.
"Because it's such a good area, I didn't want to lose out on the opportunity." Chelsea Young, the victim of the crime, said.
Young found a home listed for sale on Trulia in February. It's a 4 bedroom ranch on Napoleon Street next to Notre Dame campus. It was listed for $30,000. One realtor we spoke to said it could sell for as much as $150,000.
"I called the number that was listed and someone answered right away. Her name was Anna." Young explained.
Young says she spoke to Anna several times that day. She says Anna pointed her to their website, communicated via text, email and over the phone. Anna even emailed a contract to Young. All Young had to do was sign the contract, put $1,000 into escrow right away and deposit $5,000 the following day.
"Everything seemed very legit about her." Young said.
Young went to Woodforest Bank, located inside of Walmart on Ireland Road in South Bend, to make the deposit. When she went back the following day to deposit the $5,000, a manager approached.
"She said we've actually flagged that account as fraudulent." She said.
She says the bank froze all of the money, including the $1,000 she had already deposited.
Young immediately called Anna.
"The phone number was no longer valid." She said, adding emails also went unanswered.
"A couple of phone calls could have avoided that." Jim Dunfee, Broker and Owner of Weichert Realtors Jim Dunfee & Associates, said.
Dunfee pointed out some red flags in the listing, that is offering to first time buyers only, does not want any third parties involved and asks for money down before anyone can even do a walk through.
"In real estate, money does not have to come up front." He said.
"You know, I watch those shows and think 'How could anybody every fall for that?' And I did."
Even though the scam happened in February, Chelsea says she still has not been able to recover her money from the bank. Bank management refused to speak with ABC57 news today.
A spokesperson for Trulia tells us that the listing was only active for 48 hours. An agent flagged it as a scam and had it removed. The user's profile was also removed from Trulia, Zillow and RealEstate.com. They were not aware that there were any victims until we contacted them.
Trulia also sent this statement:
“Trulia goes to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our customer support team monitors activity on the site in a number of different ways and if a rental listing is found to be fraudulent, it is immediately removed. We also work to inform users of red flags to watch for when shopping for real estate online, such as requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries.” – A Trulia spokesperson.