Online realty scam leaves local family hopeless

By Matt Porter

April 11, 2013 Updated Apr 11, 2013 at 7:52 PM EDT

Greene, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Last October, Sharon Bickford thought she was on her way to owning her first home.

But the online realtor she found left her waiting.

"Promises next week, next week, next week," Bickford, of Greene, said, "Next week we'll have good news for you."

The Long Island-based CIG Realty promised a $110,000 home loan for a down payment of just $5,000. No credit check is necessary, according to the website.

The loan never came.

In January, Bickford tried to buy a $70,000 home in Greene.

CIG told them they couldn't provide a home loan because of too little equity.

Later that same month, the Bickfords agreed to a price of $58,500 for another home. The sale went all the way to closing.

However, Bickford said CIG delayed again until the bid was dropped.

Bickford said they were promised a loan within 30 days. They haven't received any money since they placed a down payment in October.

"I think they take advantage of people that don't have much, and they don't have the credit score," Bickford said.

Company owner Keith Anthony and former company representative Anthony Podias referred all calls and questions to their attorneys.

As of late Thursday, the attorney had not responded to repeated calls.

CIG Realty has accumulated 40 complaints with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, and 35 more with the Better Business Bureau.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Danaher said the Internet has become a haven for professional scam artists.

They can create professional looking pages that fool thousands each year into handing away their money and personal information, he said.

"Because if you look at it, if somebody wants to steal from you they can come up and stick a gun in your chest," Danaher said, "But at least you can see who's coming to you. On the Internet, it's anonymous."

Danaher said it's nearly impossible to recover money lost to online fraud.

Now, with $5,000 from her elderly mother's savings gone, Bickford said she realized she made "a big mistake."

Residents who believe they've fallen victim to an online scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.