Historic Babylon house used in rental scam

A well-known Babylon landmark that dates back to the 1800s is being used as bait in a rental scam, according to authorities.

The historic Nathaniel Conklin House on Deer Park Avenue is open for tours, but it definitely isn't available to live in. "Each room in this house reflects a different period in the history of the house," says historian Karen Petz. "It wouldn't even lend itself to being a rental."

But the house has been advertised as a rental property on several websites. One listing on rentjungle.com lists a room for rent for $2,300 a month. A similar posting appeared on apartments.com.

Village Trustee Debbie Basile says she called apartments.com and had the listing pulled. "I was mad," says Basile. "I told them this house is not for rent. How dare you put this on?" Other listings that she tried to have removed were connected to phone numbers that didn't lead to people.

Suffolk police say this type of scam is on the rise, with scammers taking advantage of abandoned, vacant and even occupied homes. "They're taking people's money and when the people get there, they either can't get in or they get in the house only to find out that they didn't have a legitimate rental agreement," says Suffolk County Police Department Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon. "And the people they gave the money to have disappeared."

Babylon real estate agent Mary Adams says she is aware of 15 cases in the last year that sometimes involved victims sending money to phony out-of-state real estate agents.

"They're giving security, one month's rent, maybe a pet security of two months, and it adds up," says Adams. "It could be anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 they're losing."

Basile has instructed village workers to be on the lookout for suspicious activity at the house. "I said, 'If you see any kind of moving vans pulling up in front of the Conklin House, please be on alert!'"

Renters are advised to be skeptical of anyone who wants cash up front for a property, and renters should verify whether someone is licensed to deal with property.

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