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Scammers threatening lives of mid-Michigan real estate agents

Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 17:44:24-05

JACKSON, Mich — Lexie Caldwell and Linda Sopko have both received text messages from an unfamiliar number threatening their lives.

The texts have gone out to real estate agents across mid-Michigan. The messages start by saying they're very sorry for the recipient and that it is a pity their life is going to end but that the sender has a duty to kill them. The texts go on to say someone wants the recipient dead and that their men are monitoring the person but could spare their life for enough money.

Caldwell, a Century 21 affiliated associate broker, said she has never experienced anything like it.

"I mean I’ve had people get scammed out of money on my listings that were trying to rent it and the scam artist had told them to mail them the money and they’ll ship them the keys, so I’ve had experience with that and there’s really nothing you can do about it but this is the first time I've ever seen anything like threatening violence," she said.

Facebook groups for real estate agents in both the Jackson and Lansing areas are sounding the alarm bells about the apparent scam.

"I mean that’s the scary thing because our face is out there, all of our contact information is out there and it’s really easy for someone to target a realtor," said Sopko, who works for Key Realty. "And, it’s already, you know we have a lot of safety protocols that we try to follow because we’re meeting all these people we don’t know so just to add this to it isn’t really making my day.”

Jackson County Office of the Sheriff which had not heard of the scam before being contacted by Fox 47 on Monday.

"The sheriff’s office is very concerned with scams that come out like this, trying to get money off of scaring residents into a monetary endeavor because you’re scared. This scam here poses a threat because there’s a threat on someone’s life," said Undersheriff Christopher Simpson.

According to the Jackson County Office of the Sheriff, anybody who receives these texts or anything like them should contact officials immediately and, even though it may be difficult to track, each report is vital to preventing scammers from swindling people out of their money.

“It should be taken very seriously," said Simpson. "So if someone was to receive a call or a text message with this type of scam regardless of what jurisdiction we ask that you call 9-1-1 immediately get the police over to make a report or at least report it in so we can try to track where the source is coming.”

Sopko and Caldwell say they just want to raise awareness so people don't fall victim.

“Right now, they’re doing Realtors," said Sopko. "But, once they start doing Joe Shmoe on the street I mean people need to be aware that something stupid like this isn’t real.”

“It reminds of the one where they would call and say they have your nephew and he was going to be put in some prison if they didn’t send money so hopefully you know nobody falls for it. Hopefully nobody loses sleep over it!," said Caldwell.

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