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  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, , , ,   

    A lockbox doesn’t mean it’s not a scam 

    A lockbox doesn't mean it's not a scam

    By Greg Collier

    Many real estate services and platforms use what’s known as a lockbox on their rental properties. It is essentially an electronic box that allows access to the property. A prospective renter can then enter a code that gives them access to the keys so they can tour the property. A lockbox like this on a property can give the impression that whoever has access to the lockbox code must be a legitimate landlord. As we’re about to show you, that isn’t always true.

    A man from Louisville, Kentucky recently inquired about a home for rent that he found on Craigslist. That’s already not a good sign already as Craigslist has long been ground zero for internet scammers of many forms. Anyway, the supposed landlord told the Louisville man that the man can take a self-guided tour of the home using the Rently platform and provided a man with the code number for the lockbox.

    The man toured the home and told the Craigslist landlord he wanted to rent the home. The landlord said there would be a $2500 deposit and sent a lease to the man. The phony landlord almost got away with it too except he kept pressuring the man to pay the $2500. It was at this point that the man realized this might be a scam. The man then checked the property records of the home and discovered that the home wasn’t being rented by someone with the landlord’s name. Instead, it was being rented by a property management company.

    We’re not sure how the lockbox codes are falling into the hands of scammers unless the codes are not being changed regularly. If that’s the case, we can imagine a number of scenarios where the code number could be obtained.

    If you’re ever looking to rent a home that you’ve found online, we always recommend going to the county’s tax assessor office or website to verify who exactly owns the property. While it may take a little extra time and effort to find this information, it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, , ,   

    Dream home becomes nightmare for one family 

    Dream home becomes nightmare for one family

    Recently, we mentioned how rent prices in the San Francisco Bay Area were dropping due to the pandemic and how rental scammers were using this to their advantage. The opposite can be said as well in markets where rent prices are climbing. A family in Tennessee unfortunately found this out the hard way.

    It started out like many rental scams do. They found a great listing for a property on Craigslist for an amount they could afford. The red flags that this listing was a fake appeared almost immediately. However, the family ignored them in their eagerness to find what they called a ‘forever home’.

    First, the person supposedly renting the home would only communicate with the family through text messaging. This makes it harder for victims to identify their scammers.

    Next, the scammers came up with a story about why the rent was so affordable. They told the family that they had just moved out of town and didn’t want the home to be empty in the winter.

    The family was then told they couldn’t tour the home or meet with the renters because of COVID-19. As you can imagine, social distancing has been a boon for scammers because they now have a reasonable explanation to avoid meeting their victims.

    There was even a for sale sign outside the property, but the scammers are said to have explained that away too.

    The last red flag came in the form of Cash App. The family paid the scammers $2400 through the mobile payment app. The family was then asked for an additional $1200, or they would lose the listing.

    The family contacted who they thought they were dealing with on Facebook who were actually previous victims of these particular scammers.

    It’s almost like this scammer wrote the book on rental scams as they had an answer for just about every red flag. Still, these red flags should not be ignored even if the deal seems to be sent from above.

    If a supposed landlord says they can’t meet you or show the home, walk away from the deal. That’s been a rental scammer staple even before the pandemic happened. Back then, they would give stories like they were doing missionary work overseas or were deployed in the military.

    With any big life choice like moving into a new home we always recommend doing as much research on the property as possible before making any financial commitment. Do a reverse image search to make sure the pictures on the listing aren’t stolen from a realtor; and always check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner or realtor is.

    Don’t let scammers pressure you into giving them your money with threats of losing the listing. Having all the information at hand will protect you against their tactics.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, , ,   

    COVID-related rental scams continue 

    COVID-related rental scams continue

    The ongoing pandemic has had at least one positive effect. Rental fees in the San Francisco Bay Area have gone down. Since the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, this is a needed relief for those looking for housing there. However, the new lower rents make this a veritable field day for rental scammers.

    Rental scammers normally use lower than market value rents in the fraudulent listings. With the current market in the Bay Area already at new lows, it makes it harder to spot a scammer. Also thanks to the pandemic, rental scammers have been using social distancing as an excuse not to meet with their victims.

    A San Francisco couple found a listing for an apartment on Craigslist that was bigger than the one they had, but the new apartment had a cheaper rent. They contacted the supposed rental agent from the contact listing. He told the couple to download an app that would allow them access to tour the apartment by themselves. While they toured the apartment the rental agent was talking to them through FaceTime the entire time.

    The couple agreed to move in and the agent requested first months rent and a deposit which amounted to $6000. Later, the agent asked them how much rent they could pay in advance. Begrudgingly, the couple agreed to pay another $6000 up front. Then the agent requested another $1500 which the couple agreed to $750.

    As you’ve probably guessed by now, the couple went to move in on January 1st only to find that the apartment had been rented to someone else. The Craigslist listing was a fake. That left the couple out close to $13,000. Even for a successful Bay Area couple, that isn’t exactly small potatoes.

    No matter how legitimate someone may seem, there’s always the potential that you’re being scammed when trying to rent a property. As always, we recommend doing as much research as possible before entering to any agreement on a property. Do a reverse image search to make sure the pictures on the listing aren’t stolen from a realtor. Plus, you should always check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner or realtor is. While research may be time-consuming, it could save you thousands of dollars in the end.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Rental scam could leave family homeless for the holidays 

    Rental scam could leave family homeless for the holidays

    A family in North Carolina is facing possible homelessness after falling prey to a rental scam. The family was already down on their luck when they came in contact with a scammer. They have a struggling business that’s been hit hard by the pandemic. They also have two young children who test positive for COVID. On top of that, they had to quickly find a new home due to safety concerns.

    Unfortunately, they went to one of the worst places you can go to find a new home, Craigslist. They found a listing with reasonable rent. When they contacted the supposed realtor from the listing, they were told when the property would be open for viewing. They wanted to move in so they paid an $800 deposit through PayPal. However, when they went to meet the realtor to get the keys at the new home, the realtor never showed. As with most rental scams, the Craigslist listing had been copied from a legitimate realtor’s website. Now the family could be out $800 and they’re scrambling to find a place to stay.

    Sadly, they are the type of victims that rental scammers love to fleece. Scammers are always hoping to find victims who are in a desperate situation who may not be thinking clearly. If the victims are under some kind of impending deadline, that’s even better for the scammer.

    While we hope this family lands on their feet, their story can be used as a warning for anyone looking to rent a home on short notice. Even if you’re under a time crunch, research the property before making any kind of deposit. We always recommend checking with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who is actually renting the property. Also making any payment through a payment app like PayPal, Venmo, or Cash App should be a red flag that you might be getting scammed. It’s easy for scammers to block victims once the payment is made leaving the victims with little to no recourse.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Lousiana, real estate, ,   

    Scammer collected deposit in person for home they didn’t own 

    Scammer collected deposit in person for home they didn't own

    Normally in home rental scams, the scammer will give any excuse as to why they can’t meet you in person. So what can you do when the scammer agrees to meet you at your home? Well, to collect your money anyway. That’s exactly what happened to a mother of six from Lousiana when she found a home reasonably priced home for rent online.

    The woman found the listing on Facebook Marketplace which led her to a listing on Craigslist. She contacted the number on the ad and the man on the other end said that he would be happy to rent her the home. The victim that was sent an application that we’re sure asked for a lot of personal information that could potentially be used for identity theft later.

    The scammer is said to have shown up at the woman’s current residence to have her sign a legitimate-looking lease. She was then instructed by the scammer to buy two pre-paid debit cards. One for the rent and one for the deposit. Each card carried $750 in funds. Later on, the scammer asked her to take pictures of both the front and back of each card.

    She had all her belongings packed up and ready to move when the scammer told her that he couldn’t meet her to give her the keys because of a ‘family emergency’. That was the last time she heard from the man who claimed to be renting her a new place to live.

    As it turns out, like most rental scams the Craigslist listing had been copied from a legitimate realtor’s website. The scammer is believed to have copied the listings of multiple other properties. All the other properties were actually listed for sale instead of being for rent.

    If you’re looking for a new place to live, you should take the time to do your research into the property. We always recommend checking with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner is. Along with that we also recommend doing a reverse image search to make sure the photo’s from the property ad aren’t being copied from a legitimate realtor or landlord. You should also be wary of any landlord who can’t tell you anything about the property but is anxious to collect a deposit. Also, be wary if the landlord tries to collect payment through apps like Venmo, Cash App, or other non-traditional means that could be untraceable.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Couple scammed by phony landlord in person 

    Couple scammed by phony landlord in person

    We often discuss a lot of different scams. Sometimes we even discuss the same scam on a number of different occasions. While the advice we give about avoiding scams are often good rules to follow in general, sometimes they don’t apply to every situation. For example, when it comes to renting a property, we always say don’t rent a property where the supposed landlord either won’t meet you or refuses to show the property. While that is a good general rule to follow, what do you do when a scammer does show up to show you the property?

    This happened to a couple from Ohio recently. They found a rental property on Craigslist that appeared to be a bargain. They called the number on the Craigslist listing and the man on the other side of the call said he would meet them at the property. Instead, a woman showed up who claimed to be the landlord’s wife. The wife did not have the key to the property but was able to access a lockbox at the property that did contain the key.

    The couple signed an official-looking lease and gave the woman a $475 money order as a deposit. The couple started moving in their belongings and even had internet installed at the property.

    It was a few days later when the actual landlord showed up to tell the couple that they had been duped. The scammers had copied a legitimate rental ad and posted it to Craigslist while changing the rental amount and the phone number. It’s believed that the scammers even posed as potential renters to get the code to the lockbox. The current landlord is willing to work with the couple but not everyone who’s taken in a rental scam like this is that lucky. Too often victims of these scams find themselves out on the street.

    However, there are steps you can take to avoid falling for a scam like this. The first is that you may want to avoid using Craigslist barbecue it has become a haven for scammers of all sorts. If the listing has pictures, do a reverse image search to see if the pictures are being used on a realtor’s website. If the pictures appear on a realtor’s website and Craigslist simultaneously, it’s almost a guarantee that the Craigslist ad is a fake. Lastly, always check with the county assessor’s website or office to find who truly owns the property.

     
  • Geebo 8:01 am on August 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    One website is slow to remove rental scam ads 

    One website is slow to remove rental scam ads

    In the Cleveland, Ohio area, owners of vacation homes have seen a recent increase in scams targeting their rental properties. This is hardly a new scam as it’s origins can be traced back to the early days of the commercial internet. This scam can also affect any property, not just vacation rentals.

    Several vacation rental owners have reported coming into contact with people who had been scammed into paying phony deposits to scammers posing as the landlords. Scammers had copied the ads from legitimate vacation rental websites and pasted the ad onto an unmoderated classifieds site almost word for word. The only thing the scammers changed was the contact information. Of course, the website in question is Craigslist.

    One of the vacation rental owners tried to get the ads taken down by Craigslist but they allegedly never received any feedback from Craigslist. It wasn’t until a local news channel got involved that the ads were finally pulled. When the station asked Craigslist why it took so long to remove the ads, they received no response.

    Craigslist still relies on what they call ‘community policing’. This means that they might pull an ad if enough users flag the ad. While some scam ads are obvious just by looking at them, that’s not the case with rental ads. In most cases, no one will know that a rental ad is a scam until victims start losing money to the scammers.

    There are many different ways you can protect yourself from falling prey to these scammers. One is using Geebo.com where our listings are reviewed for potential scams. You should also be wary of any landlord who can’t tell you anything about the property but is anxious to collect a deposit. If a landlord says they can’t show you the property even for COVID-19 reasons it’s probably a scam. If they ask for payment in untraceable ways like gift cards or wallet apps like Venmo and Cash App it’s more than likely a scam. You can also do a reverse image search to see if the pictures in the ad are being used somewhere else. You can even copy a snippet of the text and use that as a web search to help detect duplicate ads. Lastly, if you see duplicate ads on a rental website and Craigslist, it’s almost a sure bet that the ad on Craigslist is the fake.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, , ,   

    Rental scam goes on for over a year 

    Rental scam goes on for over a year

    One of the oldest scams since the early days of the internet is the rental scam. Whether you’re looking to rent a house or an apartment, scammers are out there looking to take your money.

    Usually, in a rental scam, the scammer will copy an ad from a legitimate real estate agent and post it online claiming to be the landlord. The scammers will do this to get you to pay some kind of deposit or rent before disappearing with your payment. This has cost some victims thousands of dollars. Some have even moved into the property only to find out that they aren’t living there legally. More often than not, the victim will find out within a month. However, in this particular scam, the victim was living in a home for over a year.

    A man in Rhode Island found a place to rent on craigslist in his area. He lived there for a year and a half while paying rent to he thought was the owner of the property. Recently, the man received a text message from the man he had been paying rent to that said “Just want to give you a heads up I no longer manage the property, you’re on your own. I wish you luck.”

    It turns out that the home was actually in a state of foreclosure. The man who originally owned it filed for bankruptcy but was contesting the foreclosure. The case had been tied up in court for the past year and a half while the scammer collected rent. Meanwhile, the man who is now living there doesn’t know where he will go to live.

    Before renting a property you should take the time to research the property first. Do a reverse image search to make sure the property ad isn’t being copied from a legitimate realtor or landlord. You should also check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner is. This research may take some time but in the end, it’s worth it if it means facing an uncertainty like this.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , mortgage rescue, real estate,   

    Be careful when seeking out foreclosure help 

    Be careful when seeking out foreclosure help

    With so many Americans out of work, many homeowners are having trouble making their mortgage payments. To try to keep from being evicted from their own home, some will look to so-called mortgage relief companies for assistance. Many of these companies you may see advertised through things like mailers and street fliers are not companies at all. Rather they are scammers looking to take advantage of struggling homeowners at what could be their lowest point.

    In many cases, scammers will try to get you to sign the deed of your property over to a third party. Then the homeowner is given the option to stay in the home while paying rent to the deed holder. All too often in these cases, the deed holder will be charged an astronomical rent or price the house out of reach of the original homeowner. In either case, the original homeowner could still find themselves evicted from their home. In other instances of this scam, sometimes the deed will have never been transferred. So not only will the homeowner be evicted but they’ll still be responsible for the mortgage amount.

    A different scam involves scammers calling homeowners and claiming they can help lower your mortgage payment. However, they’ll only offer this assistance if you pay a substantial fee in gift cards. These fictitious fees could be in the thousands of dollars. As we often like to remind people, no legitimate company or agency will ever ask you for payment in gift cards. Scammers often ask for gift cards because once the funds are removed from the card they become virtually untraceable.

    Instead of going to one of these potentially bogus companies, it is instead recommended that you work with your lender to see if their loan can be restructured in some way to help reduce payments. Homeowners also have the option of trying to sell their home on their own in order to pay off the mortgage.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, , ,   

    Rental scammer posed as military member 

    Rental scammer posed as military member

    Rental scammers are always looking for new excuses to give their victims as to why they can’t meet them face to face. Most recently, rental scammers used the excuse of social distancing to explain their reluctance to meet. In the past, a popular excuse with scammers was that they claimed to be working overseas on a religious mission. All the excuses are used to achieve the same effect. They do this to try to avoid suspicion in the fact that they don’t have the authority to rent the property they claim to own and to get you to make a payment sight unseen. One of the classic excuses seems to be making a comeback and that’s the scammers posing as members of the military.

    San Diego, California is a huge military town, especially for naval forces. The city has seven military bases mostly for the Navy and Marines with a single Coast Guard base. Scammers will try to use the city’s relationship with the military to their advantage. Unfortunately, it worked against one family in San Diego who were looking for a new place to live. They had found a listing on craigslist that appeared to be a really good deal. The person who claimed to own the property also claimed that they were stationed overseas with the Navy. The family wired $1600 to the scammer before they found out the listing was a fake. The scammers had even used the picture of a real serviceman who passed away a few years ago. This scam isn’t limited to just military towns as it has been used all over the country.

    If a prospective landlord ever says that they can’t meet you in person for whatever reason, it’s almost assuredly a scam. Also, if the landlord requests payment through unconventional means like wire transfer or gift cards, it is also almost assuredly a scam. If they claim to be currently overseas for whatever reason, they are almost assuredly a scammer.

    While you may be in a rush to find a new home it’s always worth taking the time to research the property. You should always do a reverse image search to make sure the property ad isn’t being copied from a legitimate realtor or landlord. Lastly, you should also check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner is. This research may take some time but in the end, it’s worth it to avoid finding yourself in a situation like this.

     
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