Secret Service warns of national housing scam, Billings isn’t immune

BILLINGS — A housing scam the Secret Service warned realtors about nationally has made its way to Billings. One real estate agent is using her experience with a scammer to prevent others from falling for the scheme.

Billings resident Lori Ludwig has been in real estate for the past four years.

“I get to meet so many new people, people are calling all the time,” said Ludwig on Thursday.

However, one of the calls she received last week regarding a vacant lot she owns was just shocking.

“Somebody called in and said they had a lot that they would like to sell for a discounted price for a quick sale,” Ludwig said.


Alina Hauter/MTN News

Lori Ludwig

Red flags didn’t go off in her head until she asked for the caller’s name.

“Got on my computer and I asked what her name was, and she said Lori Ludwig and she gave me the address. And I was like, wait, what,” said Ludwig.

When Ludwig confronted the scammer, they hung up immediately. It’s part of a scam the Secret Service warned people about last month.

Criminals impersonate real property owners and try to negotiate sales of vacant and lien-free properties. But it’s not the only housing scam going around the Magic City.

“They’ll take these listings and advertise them on Craigslist for rent, for very low rent,” said EXP Realty agent Jamie Lee Rindahl.


Alina Hauter/MTN News

Rindal has been a real estate agent for the past three years. She’s been trying to sell a property on Howard Avenue in the West End and has advertised for its sale only on Facebook.

All seemed well until she received a call from a renter interested in the house, but the renter had found the listing through another advertisement on Craigslist.

“She texted me and told me that he requested that she fill out the background check and then Zelle some money to him for $80 which is insane for a background check,” Rindahl said.

Scammers will also try to get personal information from unsuspecting renters, like their social security number or birth date.

“If you question it, reach out to someone who is a professional. Always reach out to professionals,” said Rindahl.

Ludwig said that if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

“We just need to take care of each other and do our due diligence and really vet everything before we do it and really take precautions,” Ludwig said.