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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate,   

    Airbnb promises changes amid scandals 

    Airbnb promises changes amid scandals

    Airbnb has not had the best week PR-wise. After a shooting took place at one of their listings in Orinda, Califonia, Airbnb is also facing backlash in Jersey City after voters approved restrictions of short term rentals. On top of that there was also the expose published by VICE that uncovered a nationwide scam run by phony Airbnb hosts. Scandals like these have sunk lesser companies and platforms. However, instead of trying to defend what has happened, Airbnb has promised that they will be enacting sweeping changes to their platform to ensure better experiences for their users.

    In the wake of these issues, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced plans to make all listings 100% verified. According to Chesky, this means all hosts and listings will undergo further scrutiny. Airbnb will also be launching a 24-hour hotline for users so problems can be reported immediately. This is almost unheard of in the era of everything being done online. Good luck trying to get a hold of many other platforms by phone for assistance. They also plan to make the refund process much smoother if a listing doesn’t measure up to standards.

    What gives us pause is Chesky says that part of the verification process will be depend on community policing. That means that users will be relied on to give honest reports of listings they encounter. We have seen other sites that have relied on community policing where the community was overrun by those that community policing was supposed to report on. However, Airbnb is promising that community policing is not the only method of verification they will be using. They will also be conducting their own monitoring of listings for fraudulent activity. Not a lot of companies or platforms are willing to commit that kind of manpower to monitoring.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate,   

    Reporter uncovers large scale Airbnb scam 

    Reporter uncovers large scale Airbnb scam

    Whenever there is an online platform that requires a level of trust between users, there is always going to be someone looking to take advantage of that trust. Take Airbnb for example. Usually, when a violation of that trust makes the news, it’s about how a renter took advantage of the host’s trust and trashed the property. We hardly ever hear about hosts taking advantage of renters and if we do, it’s not on the scale that was recently uncovered by former senior staff writer at VICE, Allie Conti. What she uncovered can almost be considered a conspiracy.

    While Ms. Conti was in the process of renting an Airbnb for a concert festival she was notified by the hosts that the property she rented was having plumbing issues and the property was flooded. The hosts then reportedly said that they have another property they can rent to her. Ms. Conti agreed and went to the new property which she describes as nothing short of a flophouse. She was only able to get a partial refund from Airbnb. After her trip, she decided to investigate and found that the hosts were allegedly phonies who were using stock photos in their Airbnb profile. Apparently, the hosts were using this same scam all across the country using various names. We recommend reading the entire VICE article to get the full experience from Ms. Conti’s investigation.

    So how can you protect yourself from such a scam? Unfortunately, the nature of Airbnb is that you really can’t protect yourself from this kind of scam. In many cases, guests are depending on the Airbnb they’ve booked and the scammers don’t contact them about the ‘problem’ until the guests are already in town. If guests are in town for a major convention, festival, or sporting event then their options are minimal. Finding a hotel room at this point is almost impossible. Also, keep in mind that Airbnb refund policies seem to favor the host rather than the guest. The only thing we can really recommend is to book a hotel room early.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: real estate, , timeshares   

    Scam targeting timeshare owners 

    Scam targeting timeshare owners

    A number of people think timeshares themselves are a scam. Considering how predatory some of their sales pitches can be you really can’t blame them. However, there are many who consider timeshares to be an affordable alternative to owning their own vacation getaway. It also means that you don’t have to worry about hotels or Airbnbs being sold out when it’s time to take your vacation. It also doesn’t hurt that many timeshare properties offer amenities that many other lodging situations don’t offer with more privacy. But just like everything else, there are those looking to take advantage of timeshare owners when it comes time to sell their timeshare.

    A recent report out of San Antonio, Texas, discusses a situation where a local man was approached by a brokerage firm about selling the timeshare that he had in Mexico. He agreed and began to fill out the paperwork in order to initiate the transfer process. After the paperwork was completed he then began getting requests from the brokerage for things like legal fees and international taxes. He was then told that he would get the money back once the deal went through. Then the brokerage firm continued to ask the man for more money and threatening him with lawsuits when he refused to pay. After the man stopped paying the fees they were requesting the ‘brokerage firm’ cut off all contact and disappeared off the face of the earth with them turning off the phone line and shutting down their website.

    While it’s unfortunate that any victim of this scam lost money, there were a number of red flags that this was a scam. The first was that the victims are approached unsolicited. If you’re not in the market to sell and someone calls you with promises of quick cash it’s probably a scam. Secondly, was the first request for additional funds. If you send them money once the scammers will continue to ask for it until they bleed you dry. Lastly was the act of them pressuring for the victim to send more money. Legitimate real estate brokers may try to put the squeeze on you a little bit but they won’t go to such extremes. If you’re in the market to sell your timeshare, have a legitimate broker do it for you.

     
  • Geebo 8:10 am on August 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, realtors,   

    Gift card scam targets new victims 

    Gift card scam targets new victims

    Gift card scams are nothing new. They’ve almost become as prevalent as the fake check scams. With the gift card scam, scammers will normally pose as various authorities with threatening situations in order to get their victims to pay them with gift cards. For example, in one scam the scammers will pose as local police and tell their victims that they have a warrant out for their arrest but they can avoid the arrest if they pay a fine with any number of gift cards. The point of this scam is for the scammers to get the serial numbers of the gift cards which are virtually untraceable once the numbers are given to the scammers. Now, scammers are targeting a new demographic with this scam.

    According to a report out of Idaho, scammers are targeting real estate agents with the hopes of getting the gift card numbers. The scammers have been texting or emailing agents posing as the agents’ bosses asking the agents to pick up gift cards that are supposedly meant for clients. The messages come in on email addresses and phone numbers that are close to the head realtor’s but are obvious fakes. One realtor has stated that he thinks that they’re being targeted since due to their profession they’re very visible on social media.

    Once again, if someone contacts you trying to get you to pay some kind of fee or fine with gift cards it’s more than likely a scam. The only places that tend to accept gift cards as payments are the services they were intended for. No legitimate government agency or bill collector will ask for gift cards as payment. If you receive one of these threatening calls or emails first contact the service the scammers are posing as directly to make sure it is a scam, then contact your local police. While the scammers may not be caught, at least the public could be warned about the scam.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: real estate, ,   

    Even realtors don’t know this scam 

    Even realtors don't know this scam

    One of the most prolific online scams is that of home rentals. A realtor will list a property for sale but scammers will copy the ad and claim the home is for rent. Then, the scammers will make up some kind of story as to why they can’t show you the property but are still willing to rent the home as long as they get a deposit and first month’s rent. It’s then the scammers will make off with the victim’s money while leaving them without a place to live. What’s even more surprising is that not all realtors are aware of this scam.

    In Racine, Wisconsin, a woman was looking for a rental property and found one with rent payments that were more than reasonable. The person who placed the ad claimed that they were hard of hearing and couldn’t respond by phone and that they were away on work so they couldn’t show the inside of the property. Thankfully, the woman decided to run by the property where she found a realtor’s sign posted outside. She called the realtor who told her the home had actually been sold and the ad that she had seen was a fake. What is most surprising about this story is that the realtor wasn’t aware of such scams considering how often it happens across America.

    As always, if a deal seems too good to be true it probably is. Always be suspicious of rents that are lower than the usual market value. Another red flag to look out for is if the supposed landlord can’t show the property and gives you some kind of convoluted story as to why. Some good ways to try to avoid this scam is to take the pictures in the ad and perform a reverse image search on Google or by checking your county’s assessor’s website or office to verify the true owner of the property.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, Realogy, , TurnKey   

    Would you live in an Amazon watched house? 

    Would you live in an Amazon watched house?

    Having a ‘smart’ home has been a craze for tech’s early adopters for some time now. Whether it’s smart lights that can operate on voice command or thermostats that can be operated remotely, the number of gadgets that can be installed in your home seem to be in a never-ending supply. However, it seems that a near-monopoly has been created in the smart home market with either Google or Amazon buying up most of the startups that initially gave rise to the modern smart home idea. Now one of those companies wants to help you buy a house with their devices already built in.

    Amazon has teamed with realtors Realogy to help you get into a new home and not one of the prefab tiny homes you can order on Amazon. The reason this partnership has been made was for Amazon to get you integrated into Amazon’s smart home ecosystem. For example, if you purchase a home worth $700,000 or more you’ll receive $5,000 in Amazon smart devices and services. This includes Ring doorbells, Amazon Echos, among other Amazon-related smart home gear and services. This program, called TurnKey, has launched in 15 major cities including San Francisco, Washington DC, Seattle, and Chicago just to name a few.

    Of course, there are drawbacks to owning such a home. The first concern is privacy. Amazon has courted controversy with its almost always-listening Echo devices. Reportedly, Echo devices not only record your voice but keep it stored in Amazon’s cloud servers indefinitely. The second concern is obsolescence. While these devices and services may seem like a convenience now, what if Amazon decided for whatever reason to stop supporting these devices. The majority of these devices rely on Amazon hosting these services in the cloud. If Amazon decides to pull the plug one day, you’d be left with a bunch of defunct gadgets in need of immediate replacement. More immediately, what if Amazon has any downtime on these services? If these services go down nationally that could potentially make your home a target as we’re sure any kind of outage like that would make national news.

    While the allure of free Amazon devices may seem like a strong one, you may want to weigh your options before giving into it.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: foreclosure, real estate, reverse mortgage   

    A Reverse Mortgage could leave you homeless! 

    A Reverse Mortgage could leave you homeless!

    You may have seen the commercial on TV. A celebrity spokesperson talks about how seniors could receive additional income by taking out a reverse mortgage on their home. You wonder if this is right for you or possibly an older relative. You might have heard of a friend or relative who got a reverse mortgage and as far as you know they’re doing ok. How bad could it be? Unfortunately, reverse mortgages are costing many seniors their homes and leaving them with nowhere to turn.

    Reverse mortgages are essentially a loan given to you on the equity of your home. They are typically available to those who are 62 or older. No payments are required to be made until the person either moves out of the home or dies. However, unlike a regular mortgage, with a reverse mortgage, you need to jump through several hoops to make sure the loan doesn’t go into default. You need to maintain things such as property taxes and insurance for your home, If either lapse, the lender could foreclose on the home. While that sounds easy enough to maintain, an illness or death of a spouse could leave someone unable to keep up with paperwork which could result in the loss of their home.

    According to one report, there are 15,000 reverse mortgages that are in danger of defaulting in the state of Florida alone. From 2012-2017, over 16,000 homes went into foreclosure in the Sunshine State after taking out a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages may solve a short-term income problem but many experts say that in the long run doesn’t provide any real financial security.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , paypal scam, real estate, , , ,   

    The Armslist gun sale scam and more 

    The Armslist gun sale scam and more

    We’re back again with another trio of scams to be on the lookout for.

    It seems that the much-criticized Armslist isn’t immune to scams as a woman from Western Pennsylvania has been charged with defrauding users of the website. The woman allegedly advertised several firearms for sale on the controversial site and collected the payments for them in money orders. However, she did not have any of the actual guns for sale and she’s accused of keeping all the money for herself. There’s no word on whether or not any background checks were completed on any of the victims.

    ***

    A man from Silver Lake, Washington was trying to sell his late wife’s wedding ring on craigslist when he was approached with an out-of-state offer. The man then received a bogus email stating that the money for the ring had reached his PayPal account. The man sent the ring but the money wasn’t actually there. Amazingly, after he contacted the police the ring was found in Illinois. This is a rare occurrence on the scale of a solar eclipse. Ok, maybe not that rare but it is remarkable that the man was able to get the ring back as in most cases once the item has been shipped it’s usually gone forever. In most cases, you should only deal locally and only in cash and when completing the transaction it should be done at a local police station.

    ***

    Lastly for today, a rental scam that we’ve discussed before has started popping up again and that’s the lockbox scam. The scam works like the typical rental scam where someone claiming to be a landlord will rent you a property sight unseen if you wire them a deposit. With the lockbox scam, the phony landlords have somehow gained access to the realtor’s lockbox on the property that contains a key to the home. A family in Phoenix, Arizona recently fell for this scam and even moved into the property after wiring their money to a scammer. Sadly, they had to be evicted from the property. Under no circumstance should you ever wire funds to someone you’ve never met. Most legitimate property managers will do background checks on prospective renters and will meet them in person.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: beaches, , , real estate, , ,   

    Delaware DOJ warns of Summer vacation rental scams 

    Delaware DOJ warns of Summer vacation rental scams

    Even though we are barely into the Spring season some consumers are already looking ahead to the Summer. If you’ve ever lived within driving distance of one of our nation’s beaches, you know that rental properties fill up fast and if you’re planning a Summer vacation there you have to get the jump on everyone else. Unfortunately, rental scammers are well aware of this and are trying to take advantage of unwitting vacationers. If you’re not familiar with the state of Delaware, they have some very nice beaches that are very popular with tourists. Some Delaware residents even travel to the South Jersey shore to vacation there. However, the First State is warning residents to be wary of vacation rental scams.

    The Delaware Department of Justice recently released a notice warning Delaware residents of potential vacation rental scams that could be happening in their area. Unsurprisingly, the Delaware DOJ singles out craigslist as one of the problem areas where these scams exist. Vacation rental scams work much the same way as any rental scam. A scammer will copy a legitimate ad for a rental property then post a similar ad on craigslist as if the scammer is the landlord. Once the scammer receives payment they disappear with your money while your vacation plans are ruined. This type of scam is not just limited to Delaware either.

    The Delaware DOJ offers some tips on how to not get scammed such as working with a realtor, using internet searches to make sure the property doesn’t have duplicate ads and using county property registries to make sure the property owner is who they say they are. We would also recommend not paying through unconventional means like wire transfers or gift cars as these are definitely red flags for scams. With just a little bit of homework and preparation, you can avoid having your summer vacation ruined by those looking to take advantage of people who just want to spend a few days at the beach.

     
  • Geebo 10:21 am on August 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate,   

    The house where craigslist was born is up for sale 

    The house where craigslist was born is up for sale

    The San Francisco condo where Craig Newmark founded his eponymous list has gone up for sale. For a cool $1.4 million you could own the three-bed, one-bath, 1,250 square-foot, condo with a backyard. It sounds like the perfect place for some up and coming startup CEO who just got their first round of funding. I mean it’s not like an actual working family could afford it or anything.

    Mr. Newmark himself hasn’t lived in the condo since 2005. Since then he’s bought a $6 million home in New York City that takes up two floors of a four-story building in addition to his primary residence in the San Francisco Bay Area that I’m sure must have cost him a pretty penny. Yet over the years, Craig Newmark has said that craigslist’s profits are so small that the company can’t hire additional employees such as moderators or customer service agents. The profits must at least be enough that he can afford multi-million dollar homes in the most expensive real estate markets on both coasts.

    Not surprisingly, the realtor who is handling the condo’s sale has not listed the property on craigslist. How ironic would it be if someone posted a phony ad on craigslist purporting to rent the condo out below market value? You know, like all the homes that claim to be up for rent on craigslist where scammers steal money from people looking for homes. The same phony real estate ads that craigslist does nothing to prevent from being posted in the first place.

     
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