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Simple Yet Effective Internet Scam Works Its Way Into Bronx Housing Market

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Bronx man is living a nightmare while trying to sell his house. His home and name have been dragged into the latest Internet scam.

CBS 2's Sean Hennessey caught up with the seller, and with consumer experts who aren't surprised, on Thursday night.

It's been home to Robert Brant and his family for eight years, but now the two-bedroom, two-bath in the Bronx is up for sale, and it's getting attention.

"I've had at least five, six people now knock on my door," Brant sad.

They just were not the kind Brant expected.

"They're showing up with their wives and kids and they think they're going to rent this house," Brant said.

Someone took the actual listing information, including Brant's pictures and dimensions, and put it on another website claiming the home can be rented for just $1,000. It even has Brant's name but the phone number is based in California.

And because no one is answering, interested house hunters e-mail the would-be landlord who's asking for a down payment.

"They're being asked to send the money, either check or some method of payment, and that person will submit the keys by mail," real estate agent Alex Perez said.

Of course, the keys never come.

When asked if he's ever seen this before, Perez responded, "No, never."

But consumer advocates have and aren't surprised.

"It's easier than ever for these scammers to run these scams. They have access to the Internet; they have access to sophisticated technology that makes it very cheap and very easy for them to reach millions of potential victims," said John Brevault of the National Consumer League.

The Better Business Bureau said do your homework before handing over personal information.

"See if this company exists, get them on the phone. Find out their physical address. Find out their phone number. Ask them for their license," said Claire Rosenzweig of the Metro New York BBB.

While it's unclear how many victims there may be, Brant said one thing is clear.

"As far as I'm concerned the guy is committing fraud in my name and he's ruining my reputation," Brant said.

Experts said always use a credit card when doing business on the Web because you can get your money back if you're a victim of fraud.

If you are a victim of Internet fraud, you can contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3 for short.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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