Property Listings Online Victim
Online rental websites have become a loftier way to swindle internet shoppers. Property search sites like Zillow, Trulia, HotPads and Craisglist have seen a rapid rise in fraud. Here are some statics as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that we would like the reader to become more aware of in hopes that you do not become another victim. Online auction fraud was the most reported type of fraud and accounted for 44.9% of consumers’ complaints. Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment made up 19.0% of complaints, check fraud represented 4.9% of complaints, 70% of the fraud victims were scammed through www (e.g. online auctions) and 30% of the victims were scammed by emails.
Specific to real estate, scammers will copy a posting from a legitimate real estate website, to then alter the ad and reposts them. Utopia Management has even seen their own professional yard posted signs shown in the background of scammer’s ads. Taking it another step, officials say the scammers even use a real estate broker’s real name to create a fake email. The victim, interested in the home, sends an email through the classified advertisement website and they receive a response from the scammer pretending to be the owner.
Here are the most common Red Flags to look for when either shopping for a rental property or any site in which you might be seeking goods or services said as examples in the popular rental search sites.
The rental may be local, but owner is “travelling” or “relocating” and needs you to wire money abroad. Common countries include Nigeria, Romania, UK, and Netherlands—but could be anywhere.
If you receive an email or text offering to buy your item, pay for your services in advance, or rent your apartment, sight unseen and without meeting you in person or offers you a code to accept on your mobile phone.
If someone claims your transaction is guaranteed, that a buyer/seller is officially certified, or that a third party of any kind will handle or provide protection for a payment.
If the value of cashier’s check often far exceeds your item—scammer offers to “trust” you, and asks you to wire the balance via money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
As the old saying goes, if it is too good to be true and the price is below market for the area, than use extreme caution when doing business with an online only service. The inability or refusal to meet face-to-face to complete the transaction, email or text from someone that is not local to your area, the use of poor grammar/spelling and vague on details or lack of knowledge about the property, only available via email or unable to speak by phone and asking for your bank account number or Social Security Number are all telltale signs the listing is skeptical.
If you have become a victim, or feel that you have come across one of these scam rentals listings, please flag the post on the site in which you are using and report to:
The IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the actual victim or from a third party to the complainant.
This will help not only you, but any other unfortunate shopper who might not realize they are becoming a future victim of online fraud.