Reports are surfacing once again relative to rental housing scams. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a consumer alert affecting real estate listings in a rental housing scam. The scam involves Criminals searching Web sites that list homes for sale. They take the information in those ads – lock, stock and barrel – and post it, with their own e-mail address, in an ad on other real estate sites (without the sites consent or knowledge) under the housing rentals category. Reported sites include Craigslist. The houses are almost always listed with below market rental rates.
Potential renters might then be asked to fill out credit applications asking for personal information like credit history, social security numbers, birthdates, and work history. Criminals can use this information to commit identity fraud and steal money from their victims.
Several cases of unauthorized listing display have been reported. We recommend the following approach.
Contact the website owners using every possible method (registered mail, email and telephone) to make it clear that you are the listing agent on the property appearing on their site, explain that the display of your listing information on the site is not authorized and demand that it be removed immediately.
After seven days, check the site to see if the listing has been removed. Follow up with the site owners again if it has not been removed. In other words, stay after them until it is removed.
Keep a log of the paper trail, e-mails and phone calls that reflect your attempt to proactively get this situation resolved.
Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?
- Internet Fraud Complaint Center http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
- FTC Video: How to report scams to the FTC http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0054-how-file-complaint
- FTC online complaint form https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
- Report these cases to the Attorney General’s Office. Call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-351-4889 or click the Consumer Complaint Form below to file electronically:
Consumer Complaint Form (electronic) http://www.ag.state.la.us/Complaint.aspx?articleID=16&catID
If you are defrauded by someone you met in person, contact your local police department.
Tips to help sidestep would-be scammers:
Never Give Out Financial or Personal Information – bank account, social security number, birth date, eBay/PayPal info, etc.
Never Wire Funds Via Western Union, Moneygram Or Any Other Wire Service
Fake Cashier Checks & Money Orders Are Common, And Banks Will Cash Them And Then Hold You Responsible
Avoid Deals Involving Shipping or Escrow Services – and know that only a scammer will “Guarantee” your transaction.
Do Not Rent Housing Without Seeing The Interior, Or Purchase Expensive Items Sight Unseen – in all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
Do Not Submit to Credit Checks or Background Checks for housing until you have met the Landlord/Agent in person.
Deal Locally With Folks You Can Meet In Person
Agents may wish to consider signing up for Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) for each of their listings in order to get an e-mail anytime that address is posted on a Web site.
Ask the person that you are dealing with in the transaction to send you a photo. Request a view of the property that you have already seen. Ask for the photo to include something specific, such as someone standing on the porch of the property or a can of soda on the mailbox with a view of the property. If the person is not able to produce your request, this will send up a red flag of a possible scam.