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  • Geebo 9:58 am on December 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, , Santa Barbara,   

    Craigslist used in multi-million dollar real estate scam 

    Craigslist used in multi-million dollar real estate scam

    Real estate scams are nothing new for craigslist. They’ve been going on for almost as long as the website has been around. As we’ve detailed in the past, the way these scams normally work is someone posts an ad for a property for rent at a price often deemed too good to be true. The scammer then usually offers some excuse as to why they can’t show the home and asks for some kind of deposit or application fee. Then it turns out that they don’t even own the property. However, a couple from California were recently indicted in federal court for exploiting people for millions of dollars using a new twist on the old scam.

    49-year-old Michael Davenport and 51-year-old Cynthia Rawlinson of Santa Barbara, California have been indicted in federal court for running a real estate scam that allegedly bilked thousands of people out of close to $27 million. How the scam is said to have worked is that the pair, doing business under several company names such as MDSQ Productions, LLC, Housing Standard, LLC, Anchor House Financial, American Standard, American Standard Online, and Your American Standard, would post ads on craigslist about properties for sale and rent at bargain prices. Once someone would inquire about the property they would be told that they would have to purchase the company’s list of properties. The problem with the list was that many of the properties were not owned by any of the companies and some were even said to be non-existent. This scam is said to have gone on for seven years before any charges were finally brought against the alleged scammers.

    This really should come as no surprise as when one thinks of committing real estate scams the first place they probably think of pulling it off is craigslist. Due to the fact that craigslist never seems to review their ads for potential fraud, nor doesn’t appear to do anything else to dissuade fraudulent ads, it makes craigslist the perfect breeding ground for scams large and small.

     
  • Geebo 9:59 am on November 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, ,   

    Rental scam continues to claim victims 

    Rental scam continues to claim victims

    Normally, we only post about online scams when either a new one turns up or there’s a new twist on an old scam. Unfortunately, consumers are still falling for one of the oldest online scams in the virtual book. So we thought we’d take another look at the old standby, the rental scam.

    For those who may not know, the rental scam works like this. The scammer will find a house for sale, usually on the site of a reputable realtor. They’ll then copy that ad then change it from a property being for sale to one that’s for rent. They’ll then follow this up by posting their fake ad on an unmodertaed classifieds site like craigslist. The rent will also be listed at below market values. When a consumer responds to the ad, the scammer will try to collect some kind of upfront fee, usually disguised as a rental application fee or some kind of deposit. Usually, the scammers will make some kind of excuse as to why they can’t show you the home while still asking you for money. These scams are usually designed to prey on those who are desperate to resolve a housing situation crisis in their lives.

    Recently, in Memphis, Tennessee, a scammer was able to con several people out of hundreds of dollars each for a property they did not own. The alleged scammer was said to have used the very same tactics we posted above. This is not an uncommon occurrence as it happens all over the country all the time. For example, here’s a similar report out of the Tampa, Florida area.

    In order to avoid these scams we first recommend not using unmoderated classifieds site as they’re not reviewing ads for possible fraud. Secondly, if the rent seems too good to be true it probably is. Don’t ever give money to someone without being able to walk through the property. If the seller claims to be out of the area, pass on the property. Always check with the county appraiser’s website or office to see if the property is actually available for rent. Lastly, you may not be looking for a rental property, but if someone you know is, please share this post and this blog with them in order to help educate them about this prevalent scam.

     
  • Geebo 10:03 am on November 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: lockbox, real estate, , rently   

    Beware of lockbox rental scams 

    Beware of lockbox rental scams

    Reports have come out of the Treasure Valley section of Idaho where a new rental property scam has been taking place. The new scam starts out as the usual rental scam with the scammers copying a legitimate real estate ad then pasting it on to less than trustworthy classifieds sites. However, the scam takes a new twist when it comes to accessing the electronic lockbox used to secure the property for realtors and landlords. Specifically, the scammers have been targeting lockboxes given out by a company called Rently.

    Here’s how the lockboxes are normally supposed to work…

    Unfortunately, victims of the scam then give out the Rently access code to the scammers. The scammers then get access to the property and are able to show it to prospective victims like they own the property which makes it easier for scammers to ask victims for money in the form of non-existent security deposits and the like.

    If you’re looking for a property and end up needing to use one of these electronic lockbox devices, don’t ever give out the security access code to third parties. Also, you may think that since this scam is happening nowhere near you it can’t affect you, but if it’s happening in one area of the country there’s a good chance it could be happening in multiple locales.

     
  • Geebo 8:54 am on August 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, ,   

    Zillow has Zestimate lawsuit thrown out 

    Zillow has Zestimate lawsuit thrown out

    Back in May, we posted how real estate site Zillow was being sued over their ‘Zestimate’ feature. The lawsuit claimed Zillow’s estimates were undervaluing the homes which were being sold on Zillow and that Zestimates were a de facto appraisal. In Illinois, where the suit was filed, all real estate appraisers have to be licensed in the state.

    Zillow can breathe a zigh of relief for now, as the lawsuit has been dismissed by a U.S. District Judge in Chicago. The judge ruled the portmanteau of Zillow and estimate, creating Zestimate, clearly shows consumers it is an estimate and not an appraisal and Zestimates were just a starting point for people looking to buy a home. The judge also ruled Zillow did not violate Illinois’ Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Act.

    The plaintiffs will no doubt try to file an amended lawsuit since they still claim Zestimates are affecting property values negatively.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on July 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: real estate, ,   

    The cost of online rental scams 

    The cost of online rental scams

    A number of people tend to think that the real estate rental scams that take place online are no big deal. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Currently, southwestern Florida is experiencing a surge in these rental scams. The scam is the same one that’s been plaguing certain classifieds sites for years. A con artist, or artists, will copy an ad from a property that’s being sold and change the ad to make it appear that the property is for rent. Then the scammers will claim to be renting it at a reduced price that’s hard to resist. On top of that, they’ll try to lure in people who are either undocumented in this country or people with low credit scores. Of course the scammers will put restrictions on how you deal with them such as only contacting them through email or not letting you view the property before sending them some form of down payment or processing fee.

    WFTV in Florida supposes that if one of these scammers collected the $310 ‘processing fee’ that the scammers are asking from two people a day, the scammers could end up with a quarter million dollars in a short amount of time. That’s not even taking into account the victims who will not only be out of their money but could also find themselves without a place to live.

    The best way to find out who the true owners of the property are and if it’s for rent is to go to your county’s appraiser website. However, the best way not to get scammed is to not use that certain classifieds site that is the flame to the moth for real estate scammers.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: instant offers, real estate,   

    Realtors rebelling against Zillow over instant offers 

    Realtors rebelling against Zillow over instant offers

    Hot off of them threatening a blogger over fair use of photos (BTW, they backed down after the EFF told them they have no case), real estate website Zillow is testing a new program called Instant Offers. Zillow says Instant Offers can speed up the process of selling your home and make it a lot easier. Basically how it works is, you register your home with Instant Offers and ideally, within two business days you’ll receive offers from investors who are willing to buy your home. Real estate agents, who already have a contentious relationship with Zillow, are saying not only does this hurt their business, but Instant Offers are also not consumer friendly.

    Even though Instant Offers is only being tested in Las Vegas and Orlando, many members of the National Association of Realtors have seen the writing on the wall. The realtors are saying not only does Instant Offers take away business opportunities from them, but they also say the Instant Offers investors are not offering equitable offers to homeowners. The realtors believe the investors are offering a great deal below market value. One realtor has even taken it upon himself to start a grass-roots movement to try to stop Zillow from becoming the Amazon of real estate by launching the website Stop Zillow.

    However, the question that needs to be asked is, is Zillow looking to corner the real estate market nationwide, or are realtors looking at Zillow like newspapers looked at online classifieds before print media’s decline? Only time will tell.

     
  • Geebo 8:58 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Kate Wagner, McMansion Hell, real estate,   

    Zillow threatens architecture blogger over house photos 

    Zillow threatens architecture blogger over house photos

    Real estate website Zillow has threatened 23-year-old architecture blogger Kate Wagner over her use of photos from their website. Wagner was running a successful blog called “McMansion Hell” where she took the gargantuan functionless houses to task. In many of her posts, Wagner would use a dry wit and humor to poke fun at many of the design-challenged houses by using photos from Zillow. Ms. Wagner is no mere snark blogger either. Here she is giving a TEDx Talk about the flaws in the poorly planned out houses.

    Recently, Zillow took it upon themselves to send Ms. Wagner a letter demanding she remove any picture she used on her blog from Zillow. Ms. Wagner had always attributed the photos to Zillow and defended her use of them under fair use doctrine. However, in response to Zillow’s perceived threat, Ms. Wagner has decided to, at least temporarily, shutter her website. This is a shame since not only did she have some great content about some poorly designed houses, but she also had other insightful posts on her blog about architectural trends and history in the United States.

    This isn’t even taking into consideration that Zillow themselves don’t own the pictures Ms. Wagner was using. They belong to other copyright holders who allow Zillow to use them. Zillow claims they are defending those copyright holders, but they appear to be petty in doing so by shutting down a blog of a college student whose sole income source is her blog. Maybe if Zillow decides to seek damages they should request a sense of humor in the settlement.

     
    • salman 4:20 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink

      Things got real serious.
      But if Ms. Wagner had credited the photos to Zillow, so there might not be big issues.

  • Geebo 9:03 am on May 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: real estate, ,   

    Zillow faces lawzuit over Zesitmates 

    Zillow faces lawzuit over Zesitmates

    National real estate listing site Zillow has a feature on their site called ‘Zesitmates’. These Zestimates, as the name implies, are price estimates for real estate listings. According to their website, Zillow says Zestimates are not an appraisal, but are a starting point in determining a home’s value. The Zestimates are based on a proprietary algorithm that takes user provided information and other local prices into account. Sometimes the Zestimate numbers don’t match with the actual value of the home or the price being asked by the homeowner. This sometimes vast disparity in numbers has now led to a lawsuit against Zillow.

    An Illinois homeowner has filed the suit claiming Zillow’s estimate was $60,000 less than the home is worth. The suit claims that Zillow determined this valuation by using the prices of newly built homes in their area but not quite in their neighborhood. The homeowner feels the Zestimate has limited the market potential on their home.

    Is this lawsuit warranted? Well, yes and no. While it doesn’t appear Zillow has acted with any real malice, they had to know their Zestimates could affect the market values on some homes. While Zillow may claim their Zestimates are only a starting point, they have to know a lot of potential buyers are going to use the Zestimates as a de facto appraisal no matter how many warnings they post.

     
  • Geebo 10:45 am on February 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate   

    Could you be violating your lease by using Airbnb? 

    Could you be violating your lease by using Airbnb?

    As you may know, Airbnb is a service that allows you to rent out your house or apartment on a short-term basis. The problem is that if you currently rent your home you could be violating your lease by renting the property out on Airbnb. Many leases include clauses that prohibit subletting or subleasing which could cause the breaking of the lease by renting out the residence on even a short-term basis.

    It’s gotten so bad for one property management company in California that they’re suing Airbnb. The company says that by having their tenants sublease their apartments it’s caused security and safety issues for their residents. The rental company states that Airbnb is complicit in encouraging their tenants to break their leases. Airbnb has largely stayed silent about the suit with many stating that it’s the users fault for violating their own leases.

    Airbnb renters have been seen as a nuisance in a number of jurisdictions that local governments have heavily regulated the service.

    Is Airbnb largely ignoring a problem that they consider out of their hands or are they encouraging renters to willingly break their leases? Only time and the courts will tell.

     
  • Geebo 11:02 am on February 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: credit report, real estate,   

    Beware of new twist on rental scam 

    Beware of new twist on rental scam

    Previously, if you’ve responded to an ad for a rental property from less than reputable classifieds sites, you may have come across a certain scam. The scam artists posing as the renter would say that you can’t see the property due to dubious reasons but would ask you for a rather large deposit. An unsuspecting victim would pay the deposit only to find out that the property isn’t actually for rent.

    Now, the Federal Trade Commission is reporting that a new twist in this old scam has appeared. Instead of having victims pay for deposits, they now have them pay for credit reports to companies that the scammers owned as part of a non-existent background check. The scammers will try to keep the address of the property hidden due to ‘security reasons’.

    As usual the same caveats remain with any of these scams. If the price seems too good to be true it probably is. If something feels wrong during the transaction, don’t be afraid to walk away. It’s better to be disappointed than out of a ton of money and possibly scrambling for shelter.

     
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