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Tyler Realtors are warning local home buyers about a woman posing as a Realtor to scam people out of their money.
Debbie Ezzell, broker/owner of RealEdge Real Estate and president of the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors, said a black woman about 25 to 30 years old, last seen driving a silver Ford Taurus, allegedly has been posing as a Realtor. She has reportedly taken information from Realtor websites and placed advertisements in other trade websites for property posted for lease, Ms. Ezzell said.
The woman meets with the clients and tells them she is an agent with a company and asks them for money to hold the property, Ms. Ezzell said, adding that the scammer has even had some of the victims wire money to Nigeria to hold a lease space.
Ms. Ezzell learned of the scam Wednesday when a Tyler police detective called her about her company, RealEdge Real Estate, being used by the woman to scam a man into wiring $2,000 to Nigeria, she said.
Her client’s property and her business name were used and somehow the woman opened the house to show the client, she added.
After sending a notice to other local Realtors, Ms. Ezzell heard from three others that claimed the woman had scammed their clients.
“True Realtors will always be glad to provide proof of who they are when asked,” Ms. Ezzell said. “When we post properties, we must always identify ourselves and our company as Realtors.” She said they also post their phone numbers, which can be easily accessed online to make sure the number matches the one in the advertisement.
“We as Realtors hate that our profession is being targeted by way of this fraud and are just as frustrated as the public is with having to once again look at everyone with a veil of skepticism,” Ms. Ezzell said. “But we hate even more that innocent people are being taken advantage of and losing large sums of money due to this fraud scheme.”
Better Business Bureau President Mechele Agbayani Mills said her office has not received any complaints about the woman but real estate scams are nothing new.
“There’s always some kind of real estate scam,” she said, adding that they usually involve lease/rental properties. But, she said, they typically do not include a face-to-face interaction with the scammer and victim, and instead are done online or over the phone and involve wiring money.
She said the woman allegedly meeting victims in person adds “a new twist to it for sure. Now they can put a face to it.”
Ms. Ezzell said if the public answers a rental ad or they happen to go to a website that other people can advertise on, they need to be cautious about the information they give to any person over the phone. “They need to make sure they are dealing with a Realtor before ever providing their personal information or their money,” she said.
A Realtor usually has a business card with them, as well as their real estate license. Residents need to meet the Realtor to sign paperwork at the real estate office whenever possible to ensure it is a legitimate business, she said. Consumers can visit www.gtar.com to look for local Realtors listed by the association. They can also call the office that has the sign in the yard of the property for sale or lease to see if the person actually works there.
Ms. Mills said concerned consumers can visit www.bbb.org for tips on how to not be victim of a scam or to search for reputable Realtors. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline at 903-581-8373.
For help or more information, call the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors at 903-561-8403.