5 On Your Side

An 82-year-old woman's Clayton home was listed for sale by a scammer. It could happen to anyone

Posted September 20, 2021 3:37 p.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2021 7:12 p.m. EDT

— An 82-year-old woman's house was listed for sale on Zillow in Clayton — even though her home was not on the market. She's been having potential buyers try to come and view her home ever since the scammer set up the faux listing.

Betty Moss had to put up a sign up on her front door that said,"This house is not for sale, you apparently have been the victim of a scam."

"It was easier to do that than to have to jump up and answer the door check out my front door every 5 minutes," Moss said.

The Zillow listing posted pictures and a description from her home when she bought it in 2018. A potential buyer stopped by and tried to get in to see it.

"I was sitting on my couch and I heard all this racket going on," Moss said.

She thought that would-be buyer paid the scammer to get a code to a lock box. Moss just happened to have an old box on the house, that her son, Cliff Moss, ended up removing.

"You kind of have a sinking feeling that, you know, if somebody just comes up and they start jiggling, the what if she had just walked in the house and didn’t have time to lock it," Moss said.

After another prospective buyer, then realtor showed up, Betty Moss contacted Zillow.

"They told her, you know, there’s nothing we can do. You have to contact whoever listed it, to remove it," Cliff Moss said.

Frustrated, Betty Moss emailed 5 On Your Side’s Monica Laliberte.

"I need to reach out to somebody, you know, that that has more contacts than we do," he said.

When 5 On Your Side reached out to Zillow, they immediately removed the listing, and said they should have done that at first when Moss called.

"When someone brings us a home, the first place that we’re going to go and look for it, we’re going to look on the MLS and we’re going to see is that actually a home that is for sale," said Diana Dane, president of realty company Dash Carolina.

Dane said that there have been several other cases where people are advertising homes that are not for sale.

In one, the "scam seller" said the buyer had to first rent the home, before it could be sold.

The goal of these scams is to a collect an upfront cash deposit. In this market, and especially with for-sale-by-owner listings, buyers need to research who owns the home and talk with them.

Dane recommends concerned homeowners create a Google alert.

"If there are people talking about your name, your address, things are being mentioned about you, get an alert," she said.

When you create a Google alert, anytime there is a post on the internet including the term you selected, you will get an email.

Zillow lets you create an account and claim ownership of your home, which keeps others from listing your home for sale or rent on Zillow.

However, anyone can claim any home. The producer of 5 On Your Side tested this, and was able to claim reporter Monica Laliberte’s home.

If you find your home is already claimed, you can answer questions through Zillow's website to prove it’s yours.

"First thing that popped in my mind was 'this a scam and somebody’s got my mom,'" Cliff Moss said.

Thankfully, after the knocks and jiggle at the door, Betty Moss successfully put a stop to it.

5 On Your Side says to avoid getting scammed yourself, verify information you see on Zillow. Not doing so could cost you.

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