By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — One person already fell for it, another almost did. Someone posing as a landlord is trying to trick potential renters into paying holding fees in a south suburb.

It’s the kind of scam CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas has been investigating for months.

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“I like the neighborhood, because it seems quiet,” Kenya Miller said.

She thought she’d found her new home in South Holland, but she thought wrong.

“Now I’m knocked back down to ground zero,” she said. “Now I’m kind of traumatized, because I don’t know who to believe on the web.”

Miller first inquired out about a house in Lansing listed on GoSection8.com.

A supposed landlord got back to her quickly, and instead suggested a home in South Holland, and shared pictures of an apartments.com listing.

Then they asked her for a $500 holding fee, and even sent over their Zelle info.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs and everything. So income is scarce anyway. So for you to go on a website where people are low-income, or have a housing voucher, I just think that that’s just downright dirty,” Miller said.

They told Miller “I will never hurt anyone. You can email them to confirm my house.”

CBS 2 emailed GoSection8.com, and they said it was a scam that they’ve removed from their site.

Turns out, a man named Carl Washington is still living in the house, and didn’t know about the scam until we told him.

“That’s somewhat scary, actually. I mean, you have no idea that something like this is going on, but yet it is,” Washington said.

He says the photos must have come from an old listing, and he’s glad Miller didn’t fall for it, but she may have been the lucky one. Washington’s neighbor across the street said another woman approached him last week asking about the property.

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“She had put $100 down, and she was a little worried that it might be a scam,” Sidney Mauldin said.

CBS 2 wanted a word with the wannabe landlord, so we called the number that texted Miller, but they didn’t pick up.

“It was a huge let down,” Miller said.

Now she’s taking her story to the police.

Last December, Tim McNicholas reported on a realtor in the western suburbs who has had at least two of his listings spoofed by scammers.

Experts say you should always make sure you’re dealing with a reputable realtor.

A GoSection8 spokesperson said, although their system identified the listing for the South Holland home as a scam and deleted it, it might still be listed on other sites when searching on Google.

We are 100% against fraud and scams of any kind; our entire mission is to help people, and we have many tools, videos, links, social posts, and online chat to help visitors identify fraud and notify us of any suspicious listings.

As you may have seen on our website, we encourage people to report all scams, we have an FAQ on scams, and have videos on social channels and on youtube, that help people to understand the entire scamming system, and how to avoid being scammed.

  1. https://www.gosection8.com/main/scams.aspx
  2. https://youtu.be/NTxBUO7boug
  3. https://youtu.be/e2q2GG99qsk

At present, we have numerous systems that check a listing for validity, including: IP address risk scores, email address rick scores, phone number risk scores, and much more.  

We take fraud very seriously. And, our fraud verification department also verifies new owner/property managers manually before any of their listings appear on our site.  In this particular case, this scammer somehow made it past our processes, and that, for us, is unacceptable.

Please know, that we are currently working to improve our current technology and process even further, to ensure that these types of situations do not re-occur and are handled immediately.

A FirstKey Homes spokesperson provided the following statement regarding the South Holland home:

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“Stories of consumers becoming victims of criminal rental activity are heartbreaking to hear. While we have received no previous reports of this home being a target of illegal rental scam activity by criminals, we provide how to avoid rental scam information with each property description on our Website and our Online Help Center to help inform consumers. We also include a link to the FTC consumer page that provides further tips on how consumers can avoid rental scams. Additionally, we provide information at our properties for those touring the home – tags on Rently boxes and various collateral materials throughout the house.”

Tim McNicholas