Beware: Are Your Listings Being Used in Phony Ads?

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Real estate brokerages and associations are warning their employees and members to be on the lookout for listing photos being used in phony rental property ads on the Internet.

In recent months, an increased number of real estate professionals have reported their listings being scraped and used for rental scams. Scammers are reposting the listing information on Internet sites, such as Craigslist, and claiming the home is for-rent, not for-sale. The perpetrator will often tell the renter that the home is unavailable for a showing. Unsuspecting renters who are lured to the low rental price will make deposits to rent the property only to find out later that the home was never available for rent. Then the listing will quickly disappear off the Internet. 

Reportedly, a tall-tell sign is that the “for sale” sign will go missing from the yard soon after an ad goes on the Internet advertising the home as a rental.

“Online ads have made finding rental properties much more convenient for consumers, and many prospective renters have successfully found homes through online classified ads,” says Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Unfortunately, though, what is convenient for consumers is also convenient for someone trying to take advantage of them.” 

BBB is advising its real estate professionals to conduct an Internet search for newly listed properties to make sure the property they are listing isn’t being scraped. 

BBB also is offering the public red flags to look for to make sure they aren’t duped by a rental scam, such as being skeptical of: 

  • Too low of a rental price. Scammers purposely advertising the property with ultra-low rent to entice victims. 
  • Hefty deposits. Another red flag: Substantial deposits before the keys are handed over or the property even showed. Renters should also be skeptical of a landlord who asks them to wire money. 
  • Missing landlord. The renter also may want to be skeptical of a landlord who only communicates via e-mail and is located elsewhere. Often in these scams, they claim they are out of the country because of a missionary assignment or a new job. BBB recommends only dealing with landlords, real estate agents, and property management companies who can assist them in touring the property together. 

Source: “BBB Warns REALTORS(R), Renters of Phony Rental Listings,” KETK-NBC (East Texas) (Aug. 21, 2013)

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