Scammers are scraping rental listings off the Internet and using real estate agents’ identity from the listings to dupe would-be clients.
Practitioners may not even discover it until the clients confront them, demanding keys for a property they believed they rented and had already mailed a deposit check to the individual they believed was the agent.
Scammers are reportedly taking rental listings off Web sites and reposting them at a lower rent than the original listing. The renter than corresponds with the scammer, often through e-mail. Scammers will create e-mail addresses that reflect the listing agent’s name to dupe clients. Scammers will also use a phone number with the agent’s same area code.
The latest scam involved a Pocono Lake, Pa., real estate broker who had a client confront him over a rental listing. The scammer reposted a fraudulent listing of the rental property on the site Zillow, which also feeds it to HotPads.
The chairman of the Pocono Mountains Association of REALTORS®’ MLS, Malcolm Waring, told Inman News that after hearing about the scam, he’s considering even barring Zillow from posting the MLS’ rental listings, fearing that Zillow may be more vulnerable to these types of scams.
Zillow promptly removed the fake listing at Waring’s request so he has decided not to pursue the threat, Inman reports. But he told Inman that if he learns of a similar scam on Zillow or HotPads, he’s prepared to end the listing agreement.
Zillow assured Waring and others that after hearing about the scam they are beefing up their security measures.
“We take these scams very seriously and we’re always analyzing and exploring new ways to stay ahead of this,” Cynthia Nowak, a Zillow spokesperson, told Inman News.