CALLAHAN, Fla. – A Callahan couple was shocked to find out that their property was listed on Zillow without their knowledge when a realtor came to their residence and started pictures.
Susan and Kris Jones said a person posed as a realtor posted the property and refused to take it down unless they paid him.
The couple recently moved out to a home on almost 3 acres in Callahan.
“We turned 50 this year. This was our dream property,” Kris Jones said.
Everything was going well until they were put in the middle of a scam.
Jonathan Daugherty, a local realtor, said he sees incidents like this all the time. He said it happened to his neighbor.
“They have a 1.2 million lot. We look on Zillow one day, and they had it for sale for 285,000,” Daugherty said.
He said he’s had 10-11 fraud cases in the past 10 years, some were posted on Zillow.
The Jones say they feel violated after finding out their property was listed on Zillow by a scammer.
“My husband looks out of the window and somebody is taking pictures of our property,” Susan Jones said. “She said she wanted to check the property because she had potential interests wanting to buy the property.”
The realtor then showed Jones the property listing on Zillow, which showed 1.2 acres of land for sale for 45,000. The post also said the property was for sale by owners.
They found out the posting had been up for 30 days.
Susan Jones said she called the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office but they couldn’t do anything because it’s not considered fraud unless money is exchanged.
Susan then decided to see if she could catch the scammer herself.
“I have contracts they sent me. I used fake information. I called all of the references on their contract to make sure they were valid. These people were livid,” Jones said.
News4JAX also called the number on the realtor’s card — it was a fake Google voice number.
There was a property owner’s number on the listing on Zillow, which wasn’t either of the Jones numbers. It was the scammers.
“I helped her stay calm when she was on the phone talking to the person, but I wrote down everything they were saying,” Kris Jones said. “They said give me 500 dollars and I’ll stop showing your property.”
The Jones eventually called the Zillow corporate office and the post was removed from the site two days later.
Daugherty said there are clues you can use to find out if a property listing is legitimate or a scam.
First, does it seem too good to be true? Is it listed too cheap? Secondly, Daugherty recommends paying attention to the images because if it’s copied and pasted, they will have an emblem on the bottom.
Daugherty also says people can look up realtors on the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website.
Within the last few years, these real estate scams have become more prominent because of the internet. Daugherty recommends always using a realtor before looking for homes, especially online.
“People will trust anyone because it’s the internet. I’ve had people hand me thousands of dollars of cash and not even question if I’m the property owner, which is scary,” Daugherty said.
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