GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Everything looks legitimate and the process is underway for you to move into your new home. All that's left is a payment or deposit and you're on your way.
But the moment that money leaves the bank account of some house hunters, they're finding out they've been scammed - and the real owners of their new abode never got a dime.
The Gainesville Police Department wrote on social media that they're getting reports of scammers who are using legitimate sites to swindle unsuspecting victims out of lots of money.
"There have been reports that scammers will copy actual listings and list them under a fake name on Zillow or Trulia so that you will contact them instead of the actual property owners or real estate agents," the department warned.
From there, they'll have their victims wire them the deposit or some other form of payment. Suddenly, contact ends and the victims are left with a big chunk of their move-in money squandered by a complete stranger.
The solution, according to Gainesville Police, is to first be aware of the scam, and then go through trusted sources to make sure they're speaking with the real property owner.
"We have a lot of real estate professionals in our community that can provide legitimate assistance in confirming listed properties online," the department wrote. "Always be cautious of who you are communicating with over the phone and make sure you are dealing with the homeowner or real estate company."
Because, as victims have found out, it's easier to protect yourself from a scam than it is to pick up the pieces after being the victim of one.