Hackers try renting out woman's home to others

Posted at 10:52 PM, Feb 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 15:21:24-05

Donna Gunn says she feels violated after scammers used her personal information to try to make money off her home.

It all started the week Gunn's realtor put up the home she's lived in for the past 10 years up for sale. The same week her home was up for sale is when Gunn says people she didn't even know started knocking on her door. 

"A lady came to my door and said oh I got an email from your husband," Gunn said. "My husband has been dead for ten years, so there's no way that he could have emailed anybody."

The e-mail the woman received from someone posing as Gunn's husband reads: "I appreciate your interest in renting my home and hope this emails meets you in great spirits. If you notice, you'll discover that the price we are offering is below standard market price, this is enough for you to know we are not after the money. We'd like the deposit of 890 dollars and I am pet friendly."

Gunn says someone posing as her deceased husband has been responding to e-mail requests for more information about her home she soon found out has been listed on Zillow for rent.

"My house has never been for rent, it is not for rent. It's for sale," Gunn said.

She says she knew something was completely off when people would pull up to her driveway asking for a walk-through of her home.

FOX 4 sat down with Gunn's realtor, Maxine Smith, to find out how something like this could happen. "Apparently, a hacker can do anything," Smith said. "They must have gotten into my listing somehow."

Smith says those hackers are trying to make some easy money.  "It's very difficult to find rentals right now prices have gone way up," Smith said. "With the rental situation the way it is, it's prime for these scammers now to start making their money this way."

Donna's home has a Sunbelt Realty sign planted in the front yard, Smith says that's how many hopeful renters were able to connect with her and find out the house was never listed for rent in the first place.

"I have a list of 5 people who have talked to this scammer on the phone," Smith said.

Regina Williams is one of the five people Smith knows have spoken to the man calling himself Mr. Gunn. Williams says once she drove through the neighborhood, she knew the rental was too good to be true.  "I was with my aunt and we saw someone in the garage so we approached the woman living there and asked her about the rental," Williams said.  "She knew at that given time everything about the scammer was doing. I don't know how many other people have talked to him."

Williams says the scammer asked her to use Western Union to wire a $890 security deposit and first month's rent. That's when she said she felt something was off.  

FOX 4 tried calling the number listed on the e-mail but no one answered. Gunn says the scammer has answered multiple requests over the phone, leaving her anxious to find out who the man behind the keyboard really is.

"I feel very violated," Gunn said. "I'd like this person caught."

Gunn tells FOX 4 she received a letter from the Lee County Appraisers office saying her homestead and widows exemptions have been canceled because her property has been discovered to be a rental, not her primary residence. This "change" disqualifies her from the exemptions she receives on her home. 

"This could probably cost about a $2,000 or more increase on my real estate taxes," Gunn said." My realtor called the Sheriff's office and the police department and they said there was nothing they can do about it because it was on the internet."

Gunn says she hopes to find out who the man behind the keyboard really is and use her story to prevent anyone from being a victim.