Fake landlords scamming Council Bluffs renters with foreclosed homes

Fake landlords are offering homes in the Omaha metro that aren't even theirs.
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 10:24 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Ronald Argo is looking for a new home in Council Bluffs.

“I want to get a better place to live,” he said.

A nicer place for him and his three dogs at a more affordable price.

“I went across to Facebook which is the wrong thing to do.”

Argo opened an ad on Facebook from a page called Anne Worth.

While most landlords have established rates for properties, this user asked him how much he could afford to pay. When Argo asked to see the house the user said yes, but only after he’s approved.

Josh Planos with the Better Business Bureau said using social media apps to find a place to live can be like swimming through murky waters.

“Any time the conversation can be taken offline or to a place where it’s very difficult to police that activity, which is the case with Facebook Marketplace, that becomes very challenging,” said Planos.

Argo started to become suspicious when he had to wait to see the property.

“I did not send him any money,” he said. “No, I caught on.”

Planos said sometimes scammers get away with money disguised as an application fee, deposit, or first month’s rent.

“We have seen an uptick unfortunately as convenience has won out over practicality,” said Planos.

6 On Your Side went to the address they sent to Argo. At first glance, it looked empty. Available? Who owns it?

From what 6 News heard from the maintenance contractor Sunday evening, the bank does.

The contractor mowing the lawn on the property Argo almost called home also maintains 30 other foreclosed properties in Council Bluffs. He said sometimes he comes up to work and the locks on the door are cut. He said fake realtors will go that far to make foreclosed homes look available.

“You want to work with an organization that has had a previous tenant,” suggested Planos. “Perhaps even references that you can reach out to before you know what it is you’re getting into before you get into it.”

Argo showed 6 On Your Side that the Facebook page “Anne Worth” ended up blocking him when he accused them of scamming.

Planos suggested making sure you have a verified phone number and physical address of a landlord or landlord company. That way residents can bring any concerns to them directly.

Argo’s lesson with this almost-costly encounter is to do it one of the old-fashioned ways.

“I’m just going to have to drive around and just look,” he said.