Scammers Using Tri-City Real Estate Listings for Fake Rentals
It's not a new phenomenon, it's hit Florida a few years ago, and last year, Seattle. But now, scammers are targeting Tri-Cities real estate listings with fake rentals.
In the Seattle examples, a booming rental market lured the attention of criminals who bilked dozens of people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. They used the booming real estate website Zillow.com and often Craigslist to carry them out.
Zillow is the fastest growing and most utilized website for people looking for a new home, and often a rental. The digital technology of the site allows a tremendous amount of information to be looked at by perspective clients. Any real estate agent worth their license uses it.
But so do crooks. In the Seattle area, scammers were getting information and stealing pictures, and even official logos from Zillow listings, then posting "fake" rentals at half the previous price. Using fake email addresses, stealing agent's names and disposable or untraceable phone numbers, they would snag perspective customers, ask them to "wire" or send them a deposit and they would respond with the paperwork and keys.
Now, in Tri-Cities, scammers are using homes for sale on Zillow as "fake" rentals. Lance Kenmore of the Tri-Cities Real Estate Update heard on Newstalk 870, warns people looking for a rental to be cautious. He said in the last few weeks, there's been numerous Craigslist ads for homes for rent at "amazingly" low prices, but they're actually for sale! Usually the perpetrator will use the excuse they suddenly got transferred out of the area, even Hanford, and need to rent their home. They steal pictures and logos from Zillow, and set up bogus ads on Craigslist. The home the people thought they were renting turns out to be a home for sale on the market, often occupied by the selling family!
The perspective renter is asked to wire or mail a "deposit" or the first month's rent, and the scammer then tells them they will send them the keys and-or paperwork. It never arrives of course, and the victim is out the money.
Lance said he knew of at least one man who was taken by such a scam, and lost a "downpayment" on such a fake rental. Lance says if you're looking for a rental do the following:
- If the prices seems too good to be true, skip the ad. Don't bite on it.
- If you are interested, before you sign any papers, or commit, make sure the home has a valid physical address. If it's a rental, and you drive by the home and it's got a For Sale sign out front, notify the agent who's listing it is immediately. This is usually a big red flag of a scam.
- NEVER agree to do business with a party outside of the Tri-Cities that you cannot meet in person, especially if they require you to send them money. Only do so if you know the person and can verify their identity.
- Report any suspicious ads to police, and if possible (as was mentioned earlier) the real estate agent or company.
Better yet, if you are looking for a rental, contact Lance Kenmore of the Kenmore Team at kenmoreteam.com, or any other trusted real estate agent. Although they buy and sell homes for people, they can steer you where you need to go to find a quality, safe rental home or building. They would rather help you find a rental than part with your money due to a scam.