'Identity Cloning' dupes Port St. Lucie renter, Realtor through Craigslist

Realtor business identity forged, listings copied

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- - Craigslist is a online source many of go to, especially when it comes to finding housing. A click and a keyword on the website and renter Tonya Wood found hundreds of listings in her search for a new home.

Like the 3-bedroom she found for $655 a month in Port Saint Lucie.

"I was thinking, this is too good to be true, but let me try it anyway," said Wood.

She started emailing a "George Medvedeff" about the house. He sent her an application asking for all sorts of personal information.

"Just to be on the safe side, I also went onto the property appraiser's and the tax collector's (site) to make sure the address that he gave me belonged to the person I was talking to, which it matched," said Wood.

Ready to put down money for a deposit and sign a lease, Wood wanted to see the house but was told to just drive by.

When she came to the house, she discovered there were actually people living inside, so she did a little digging. The problem was the property owner's name was checking out as a legitimate Realtor on Google.

Still puzzled, Wood decided to start making phone calls and that is when she discovered she had been duped.

"At first I thought, 'why are you calling me here?' She said, 'because I understand you're trying to rent it,' " said George Medvedeff, a Remax realtor.

But the real Medvedeff was not renting the house.

A scammer had copied an old listing, created an email using his name and started posing as his business.

"You feel violated," said Medvedeff.

A consultant with the Florida Association of Realtors, Andrew Wooten, said the scam is called "identity cloning."

Wooten said cases like the one involving Medvedeff are on the rise as detailed information becomes more available on the web.

Medvedeff said in a housing market when many are dealing with foreclosure and having to rent, he called "identity cloning," sad.

"The only thing these people are trying to do is just get a home for themselves and a roof for their family," said Medvedeff.

Realtors said if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Experts also said, always try to meet in person before sending anything and never rent a property sight unseen.

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