1/28/2016

Law Enforcement Cracking Down on Online Home Rental Scams

Don't get fooled by a fraudulent "rental"
The rental housing landscape has been the target of fraudsters.

For instance, a legitimate "for sale" listing which shows up not only on the local REALTOR multiple listing service (MLS), and then (according to licenses) automatically fanned out to such sites as Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, etc., and also possibly manually entered by the listing agent into other sites such as Craig's List, is hijacked.

Actual listing agent information is deleted by person(s) attempting to misrepresent the listing, but the rest of the listing information, including photos, is resubmitted as a rental property with a new rental price, often one which does not support local neighborhood values, but gets the fraudster plenty of emails or phone calls.  The purpose of this is to get an unsuspecting renter to wire money to the "agent", before agreeing to see the property.  Of course, after they obtain money, there is no showing of the property--the fraudster may live on the other side of the country, or in another country.  This has personally happened to me, and to other area agents as well.  To get the false information and listing deleted online takes time and phone calls, including phone calls from renters who went to my listing to verify its existence, and then called me from the "for sale" sign.  Of course, it's not for rent, it's for sale.  Moral of the story:  Do not send money or personal information to see a rental.

Another local scenario in the 562 area code is where another rental company with a different area code goes to vacant properties and puts up their own rental sign so that they will get phone calls off someone else's property for which they have no contract to lease or to sell.  Yes, they've been reported so they quit for a while, but after a while, the signs pop up again. 

This is a nationwide problem.  If you are a landlord, you should also take notice of this issue.
Always try to first verify the actual agent or owner of a listing, because this is happening just often enough to cause headaches for all concerned.

Below is an online article for the Freddie Mac Blog published today about this very issue, worthwhile reading for everyone on how to recognize and protect yourself from these schemes. 
Law Enforcement Cracking Down on Online Home Rental Scams: Law enforcement started the year by cracking down on fraudsters using phony online real estate ads to fleece would-be renters.

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