A number of people say they've been tricked into providing personal and financial information to scammers on CNY Facebook garage sale pages.

Michelle Franz-Lamandia, a real estate agent with One Realty Partners , said she saw photos of a Utica house she had listed for sale on a Facebook garage sale page. The post included photos of the home from her listing, and said the house was available for rent. There's just one problem: the post wasn't from the homeowner, and the home was NOT available to rent.

Here's how the scam goes: the person (or persons) responsible for creating the posts lists the details of a home for sale as available to rent. Once a prospective renter contacts the scammer, the renter then provides personal information while "applying" to rent the home. Finally, the scammer provides a bank account number and routing number for the "renter" to send a deposit to.

Screengrab courtesy Kaitlyn Bennett

The "scammer" tells similar stories to each of the "renters": they've moved away, they're out of town, the realtor doesn't know they want to rent the home...all to cover so that the prospective renter never gets to look inside the home, and is discouraged from contacting the listing agent.

Kaitlyn B. - who was interested in renting one of the homes - says she only discovered it was a scam when she knocked on the door of the listed home and the owner told her it wasn't really for rent. "I literally saw that it looked like a family lived there and knocked on the door lol the man was like nope he’s running a scam!" she said in a Facebook post.

Other commenters in the closed Garage Sale groups said they've seen similar listings on Craigslist.

How do you protect yourself for these rental scams?

  1. Never provide any personal information over the internet.
  2. Look for red flags: the "homeowner" can't get you in to see the home in a timely manner and discourages you from contacting the realtor.
  3. You're being asked to provide unusual information - for example, a picture of your family.
  4. The deal seems to good to be true - if the listed rent is well below what you should expect to pay, it's probably a scam.
  5. Double check the information online - in most cases, you can determine who really lives at a home by searching the internet, or the official assessment rolls provided by a municipality.
  6. Ask questions - about the neighborhood, the local schools, trash pickup - something that only someone who lives in that area would know - if their answers don't make sense, trust your gut.

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