Warning! Online Rental Scam Targets Real Estate Listings

This story began a couple of weeks ago when we noticed a marked increase in drive-by and Internet calls on a listing we had in Plano.  The home was listed for just over $425k and was listed for lease with a property management company for almost $3k per month.  Many of the callers were trying to verify the $1000 a month lease price! 

We finally got one of the callers to tell where they had found the property. We did some investigating and found this to be the most elaborate scam we’ve seen to date. 

The scam artist takes real listing data and photos and builds an account with a number of free listing websites. These accounts are in the owner’s name which is readily available in the public records.  He also builds an email address using the owner’s name at one of the many free email services.   Once contacted by a potential tenant, he tells them he is out of the country. He sends them a lease application with also has the real owner’s name on it. The deposit money is to be sent via Western Union as he is out of the country on a missionary trip.

We ran a search for the phone number listed on the application at Google and found hundreds of listings all over the US. Gina and I have good media contacts and we went public last week with a story airing on KDAF TV 33. Click here to see the story and related video,

Our advice for people looking for lease homes is to always use trusted websites like realtor.com or any of the websites for a reliable real estate company.  We also advise people to seek assistance from a licensed real estate professional. The good news is in most cases tenant representation is at no cost to the tenant.

Source:  Tom Branch and KDAF TV


About Tom Branch

Tom Branch has written 597 posts in this blog.

Have you ever just met someone, but felt you like you'd known him for years? That's what most people experience with Tom. He has a knack for making folks feel right at home. After 21 years in the Air Force, loyalty and honesty are the foundation of everything Tom does. In addition to being a Texas Real Estate Broker, Tom is a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) and a Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource (SFR).