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South Florida Family Tricked By Latest Craigslist Scam

KENDALL (CBS4) -For nearly two years the Velez family has been out of work.  Evicted from their Homestead home, they now live with family in a one bedroom in Kendall.

"This was the only choice I had.  Either this or a homeless shelter." Suzie Mendoza-Velez told CBS4's David Sutta.

When Salvador Velez finally found work, Suzie began looking on Craigslist for a home.

She ended up finding the latest scam.

Mendoza said, "I knew before that people had gotten scammed on Craigslist.  But I never thought that it would happen to me." The listing advertised a three bedroom home for $800.

Caroline Murphy, who owns the house was quite surprised.

"One day we started getting knocks on the door. 'Oh is your house on the market for $800?' That's not the price we're asking," said Murphy.

The real price is actually more than twice that, $1900.

The scam is classic fraud typically done in Nigeria.  You wire money to them in exchange for something but they never follow through.  The scam is getting more sophisticated.  The criminals are stealing images of a real houses for rent and using an email address with the owners name in it.

The Velez family fell for it, sending $200 to hold the house.  Suzie told us "That's all we had."  If they had more they would have sent it.  The keys never came.

Realtor Janie Coffey blogged about this scam in August on Caroline Murphy also recently blogged about the scam.

"I'd like to say do your research.  But even with some basic research you still would have fallen for this." Murphy said.  In front of reporter David Sutta, Murphy called the scam artist in Nigeria who claimed he owned her house.  She asked him "What is your name?" Moments later he hung up.

Coffey has seen the scam across Miami-Dade County. They move from house to house as people catch on.

Her best advice, "If it seems to good to be true it's too good to be true."

Unfortunately for the Velez family the advice came too late.

"I feel really bad because I'm poor.  And I have to start all over again." Salvador said.

Typically there is little or no recourse if you get caught by this scam because the money has left the country.

The best advice besides if it sounds too good to be true don't follow it, is to hire a Realtor. It's a free service for renters.

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