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  • Geebo 9:01 am on February 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Real Estate Scams are still prevalent even offline 

    Real Estate Scams are still prevalent even offline

    With the real estate market the way it is, it’s no surprise that there are people looking to take advantage of the housing crisis. While online real estate scams have been a thing prior to the economic collapse of 2008, they have definitely picked up steam since then. While we will be discussing an online scam that is currently ongoing, some other scammers have taken the old school approach of conning their victims in person.

    Nashville, Tennessee is in the middle of an IT boom with many IT workers looking to relocate there. Because of this, scammers are running the ‘classic’ real estate scam online. The scammers are said to be copying legitimate real estate listings and posting them online as if they were renting the properties. This way they’ve been able to con victims into giving them down payments under the guise of holding the property for them. Unfortunately, it’s usually too late when victims find out they7’ve been taken with many left scrambling for a place to stay. The Tennessee State Government recommends checking with the Tennessee Real Estate Commission to make sure the real estate agent is who they say they are.

    In Alabama, a con artist that is said to be known to police is accused of scamming a woman out of $24,000 while claiming to be a house flipper. House flipping is the act of buying a house that’s usually in a state of disrepair for cheap then fixing it up and selling it for a profit. The victim thought she was investing in just such a house. The scammer even asked the victim for additional funds for additional repairs. However, the scammer never actually purchased the property and no renovations were ever completed. If you’re entering into a real estate venture with someone, it’s recommended that you do your due diligence and research your partner before handing over any money.

    Lastly for today, we go to Brooklyn, New York where a man was recently arrested for allegedly scamming people who were applying for housing through a government program. The scammer would promise prospective applicants that they would be moved to the top of the waiting list if they paid him $15,000. He reportedly then told his victims that an apartment would open up for them in six months to a year. In the meantime, the scammer would repeatedly ask his victims for more money to try to find other apartments for them. The scammer had no affiliation with the government nor the housing facility. When it comes to government-backed programs, the red tape can be excruciatingly long but unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

    While the desperate need for shelter can often override our better judgment, it’s always worth it to take a step back and research the situation before handing money over to anyone.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate,   

    How to recognize an Airbnb scam 

    How to recognize an Airbnb scam

    Last Fall, a reporter from VICE unintentionally uncovered an alleged scam ring that was operating on Airbnb. She found that several hosts were using bait and switch tactics to get guests into substandard accommodations. In her case, the hosts said that there was a plumbing accident at the property she had booked but they offered her a substitute booking. The replacement lodging was compared to that of a flophouse. She discovered that the hosts were allegedly pulling the same scam using different names all over the country. It seems that these scammers were not the only ones.

    In a recent follow-up article, VICE reached out to their readers and asked them what scams they had encountered while using Airbnb. The bait and switch was an obvious one with many people reporting that hosts would say that something happened to the property in the listing, like a plumbing emergency, and that they would rent them a different listing which of course was substandard. Another common scam was hosts trying to get guests to pay for their stays outside of the Airbnb platform through either cryptocurrency, check, or a third-party payment app. Other respondents said that hosts would often try to charge them for damages where the fees were much greater than the cost to repair the damages.

    Unfortunately, with the way the Airbnb platform is set up, you can’t often detect a scam listing until you’ve already made arrangements. The best protection against these scams is to thoroughly research the hosts. It’s recommended that you do a reverse image search on their profile pictures to make sure the hosts aren’t using stock images or images they found online. You can also research the people leaving good reviews for the hosts to make sure they’re not the hosts leaving phony reviews. However, the only foolproof way to avoid Airbnb scams is to rent a hotel room.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on December 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ohio, real estate, ,   

    Rental scammer goes to great lengths to fleece victim 

    Rental scammer goes to great lengths to fleece victim

    When we talk about rental scams we usually give advice on how to spot one. In a typical rental scam situation, we warn our readers to never agree to rent any property sight unseen and never wire money or pay with gift cards. But what if it’s an atypical rental scam? Those may be harder to spot if a scammer is willing to go the extra mile to ripoff unsuspecting victims. That’s exactly what happened to one family in Ohio when she rented a property that she thought was perfect for her.

    The mother of five found an online listing for a home for rent in the Columbus area. She met with a man claiming to be the landlord face to face. He reportedly even had the keys to the home and showed her around. Legal documents were signed and money changed hands. Two days after the family moved in someone else came into the home and they had just rented the property from the legitimate landlord. While the fake landlord presented identification and contact information, the addresses were fake. The driver’s license the fake landlord presented to the victim listed an address where someone else lived. Here’s another example of an elaborate rental scam.

    People who find themselves in a situation like this are often in a desperate search to find housing quickly for whatever reason. This leaves them vulnerable to scammers since they’re looking for shelter fast. In order to avoid this type of scam, even with elaborate scams like this one, research is key. Take the time to thoroughly vet the property. try doing a reverse image search to make sure the property ad isn’t being copied from a legitimate realtor or landlord. Check with the county assessor’s office or website to find out who the true landlord is. That is public information that’s available to anyone.

    It’s better to put in the extra time so you don’t end up losing money and a roof over your head.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on December 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: real estate, , ,   

    Just how many people have fallen for the rental scam? 

    Just how many people have fallen for the rental scam?

    One of the scams we’ve talked about the most almost since day one is the rental scam. That’s for good reason as it’s one of the most prolific scams on the internet. If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, it takes advantage of those who are usually desperate to find a new home. The scammers will list a property online as being eligible to rent usually at well below market prices. They’ll ask for all sorts of payments such as deposits and first month’s rent but will almost always never be available in person nor will they let you inspect the property. Once the victim pays whatever money has been requested, not only will they be out that money but they could also be homeless as well. Usually, the property advertised is one that’s for sale by a legitimate realtor. The scammers copy the ads and change a few details to make it look like it’s a steal for rent.

    For us, this is old hat that we’ve known about for years. However, even we were a little shocked to learn the actual numbers behind the scam. According to the Better Business Bureau, five million people have been the victim of some form of rental scam. That’s more people that live in the city of Los Angeles. If we say that all of those people lost an average of $1,000 to rental scammers then they would have collectively lost $5 billion. The BBB also says that a number of properties that have been used in the scam have started posting signs outside that say the property is not actually for rent.

    As we previously mentioned, if a supposed landlord can’t meet you or wants you to rent the property sight unseen, it is more than likely a scam. Another red flag to look out for is a staple of the online scam and that’s the form of payment the scammer asks for. If someone claiming to rent a property asks you to make payment by wiring the money through Western Union or MoneyGram, it’s probably a scam. If they ask for payment in gift cards, we can almost guarantee that’s a scam. Both of these forms of payment allow scammers to run off with the victim’s money untraced.

    If you’re looking for a place to rent, research is your best defense. Always do a reverse image search to make sure the listing has not been copied. If they have a website you may also want to check with the county assessor to see who the actual landlord is. These two steps will go a long way in protecting you from scammers as no one wants to join the five million other victims.

    • Johnny Shepherd 4:27 pm on December 18, 2019 Permalink

      I was in desperate need of a place to stay in LA, found a room on “Roomster” app, met with the guy, spent afternoon w/ him, running around, getting lunch, looked at the place, was given a key to the house, signed a “lease”, slept there for 3 nights, and on the fourth day, I went to run some errands in the AM…and when I came back, everything that was in the house was now stacked outside (including my things), 3 laborers were inside tearing out the carpeting, and there was a sheriff’s deputy standing near the front door, not allowing access…My new “roommate/landlord”? Nowhere to be seen. The first and last month’s “rent”? Well, that was gone too. Good scam. Never thought it would happen to me. And I’m currently homeless because of it though I’m close to securing a new place from a friend.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Family with leukemia afflicted baby targeted in rental scam 

    Family with leukemia afflicted baby targeted in rental scam

    Further proving that scammers will stoop to any level, a family in Southern California is scrambling to find a new home after falling victim to an online rental scam. If you’ll recall, scammers will copy the online ads of homes for sale then post the ad in online marketplaces as a home for rent. The rent requested will often be well below market value. In most cases, the scammers will try to pressure you to make some kind of large payment without being able to see the property. In other cases, the scammers will also make you fill out a lengthy application they’ll use for identity theft.

    That’s what happened to the family from California. Their 14-month-old son has been diagnosed with leukemia and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. They are looking for a home closer to the hospital where the baby is being treated. In terms of Southern California travel, the hospital is too far away from their current residence. While looking for a new home, they found an online ad for the perfect place. They responded to the ad and filled out an application with all their personal information. It was after a friend looked into the property they found out that it wasn’t actually available for rent. Now, they’re busy trying to find a new home while worrying about not only their son but also having their personal information exposed like that.

    If you’re looking for a new home and you find one that’s too good to be true, it probably is. In order to avoid such scams always do a reverse image search on the photos in the ad to make sure the ad isn’t stolen from someplace else. You should also check with the county assessor’s website or office to verify who the true owner of the property is. And don’t be taken in by convoluted stories about why the property can’t be shown or why the supposed landlords can’t meet you. Lastly. never pay or wire money for any property sight unseen. If you would like to help the family mentioned in today’s story they have a GoFundMe page to help assist with the astronomical cost of childhood leukemia.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, , , ,   

    The secret shopper scam returns in time for Christmas 

    The secret shopper scam returns in time for Christmas

    Another potential scam that we see return around the holidays is the secret shopper scam. While many retail outlets do have positions for secret shoppers, there are more chances of you being scammed then getting a legitimate job. The Delaware State Police are warning that the scam has appeared in their area. Considering that Delaware has no sales tax, they are a prime target for such a scam. With most secret shopper scams, the scammers will either try to get you to pay a fee to become one. Or they’ll send you a phony check to deposit in your account then use it for shopping before wiring them back the balance. These are the hallmarks of a scam.

    In other scam news, police in Richland, Washington are warning that the rental scam is occurring in their area through Facebook Marketplace. The rental scam is one of the oldest online scams there is. The scammers will post a home or apartment for rent at a below-market rate. They’ll then try to get you to rent the property without seeing it and pressure you into wiring them a deposit. If you’re looking to rent a property, always be suspicious of any of these signs.

    Lastly, in Southern California, a water department there is warning customers about a company that is claiming their water is potentially contaminated. While the news article about the claims doesn’t mention it, this could potentially be a high-pressure way of trying to get residents to buy expensive equipment for their home that they may not need. Any company can put an official-sounding prefix in their name like American or National, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out to take your money.

  • 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.

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