Potential tenants: Internet scammers rush to take your money, identity.
The first week-end after I listed a renovated home in North Dallas for $600,000 I started getting calls from agents and consumers asking “is this property for rent?”
It’s not unusual to get that question from one or two hopeful tenants, but the calls just kept coming.
People started showing up at the home, peering into the windows and trying to get inside. Some had printed the pages from a rental website showing the true address of the property along with my professionally done photos, my property descriptions, and a ridiculous rental price of $1300 per month, and of course bogus contact information.
I talked to several people who were very close to exposing their bank account and personal information to this internet thief.
It seems the scammer was presenting himself as the owner of the property and said his family had moved out quickly because of a missionary assignment, or family tragedy. They were desperate to find someone fast to live in the home and take care of it until they could return to the area. That’s why it was so cheap. That’s why there was a sense of urgency. (not true, of course)
The scammer wanted the potential tenant to fill out a rental application that was emailed to them, and “if chosen” the tenant was to wire the first months rent and deposit, $2600, to a bank account and the scammer would mail them the keys.
After a short Google investigation, I found the ad had been removed from the website and the link was dead. So, I called the rentals dot-com company for more details.
Protect your money, credit cards, identity
A helpful and concerned person took my call. She told me they monitor as best they can for bogus postings, but they frequently get calls from distressed victims who have sent money and information — even driven across country expecting to find a home ready and waiting for them — only to learn they have been scammed. Her explanation went something like this:
The scammers use stolen credit cards to place ads, frequently on Friday night to hook the week-end activity. They set up a free email account using the name on the stolen credit card. They steal the data and photos from legitimate websites. And then set back and collect money from as many people as they can. In the case of my Dallas home, if they got four people to “bite” they would get over $10,000!
Before you fall victim to this or similar scams, be sure to check your facts. And check your gut. Follow your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- First, go to the county tax records to check ownership of the property. This data is free and easily accessible on-line.
- Next, search for the home on other websites such as Realtor.com and Zillow.com to see if it is listed for sale. If so, call the listing agent and ask the questions. That’s where all my calls were coming from.
- Then, contact the dot-com company that is advertising the home for rent and ask them to verify their information.
- Never, never, never give personal information, account data or send money. Do not become a victim.
- If you’re looking for a lease property, find a real estate agent who specializes in leasing to help you.
Another Update – calls are still coming in from victums of this scam. So far, four families (that I know of) have sent deposits to these scammers, with nothing in return. One lady who sent an application but was less forthcoming with money, was even threatened “I know where you work and I know where you live”. The scammers platform moved to CraigsList. Please do not put yourself into this trap!
Norma Wall, Broker
North Point Realty, Collin County