LAS VEGAS -- A real estate scam first exposed by 8 News NOW is more widespread than first feared. Con artists are renting out bank-owned homes to unsuspecting renters who end up getting evicted.
Since Channel 8 uncovered the scam, one woman has learned the criminals have stolen her identity as part of their scheme.
The woman allegedly renting out three bank-owned homes from Craigslist was using the identity of a woman who works in the profession and has a legitimate job.
One home is in Desert Shores, another in North Las Vegas and a third is near Fort Apache and Elk Horn roads. The homes should be empty, but they're not. Renters signed leases and moved it, but the leases mean nothing. The criminals break open the realtors lock boxes, take the keys to the home, and then rent the property out as if it belongs to them.
"Clearly, it's fraudulent conduct," attorney Greg Wilde said.
He discovered his client is also being victimized in the scam. She saw the Channel 8 story and realized her name, Heather Coe, is being used.
The scammer gives a fake phone number and signs the fake leases, forging Coe's name.
"Heather Coe is a woman who lives in Phoenix. She works for National Default Servicing and as a trustee sales officer, she signs the deeds that are recorded with the county recorder after a foreclosure," Wilde said.
The scam often begins on Craigslist. Ads for legitimate properties are essentially duplicated by the fraudsters on Craigslist, and a potential renter's phone call is connected to a company, First House Financial, that earns an "F" rating by the Better Business Bureau.
Realtor Heidi Watt had two of her bank-owned properties illegally rented out recently. Late Wednesday, 8 News NOW uncovered scammers were trying to rent out another one of her listings on Craiglist, and the phone number connected to Sun Financial online.
The people who unknowingly rented the bank-owned homes will have to move out.
Metro, North Las Vegas Police, and the FBI say they have been made aware of the scam.