California Real Estate Fraud Report

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03
May

Imposter Rental Scams Spread to Zillow

Before you read this article about consumers being ripped-off by phony real estate agents, phony landlords and phony property management companies, know that I complained to both the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and the National Association of Realtors  (NAR) about listings being stolen 18 months ago and they did absolutely nothing.

Back then, I reported a real estate agent on the east coast (I am located in California) who had stolen my listing and posted it on his website, along with the listings of other Realtors®, in order to increase his SEO (search engine optimization). When I contacted him, he told me he could do what he wanted and that nobody would stop him. See the first/above paragraph to learn what NAR and CAR did about it.

Now rental scams are starting to appear on Zillow, victimizing both consumers and honest Realtors®. The scam is to take an agent’s rental listing, re-post it on Zillow for a lower fee and change the suffix of the address, e.g., “Drive” not appears as “Terrace.” They use the legitimate Realtor’s name and create an email address similar to the agents in order to communicate with their consumer-prey.

Savvy consumers who are looking for a rental know that Craig’s List has been used for at least several years by con artists who find out a home is vacant, change the locks on the property, post an ad on Craig’s List, then “show” the property to multiple prospective tenants. The con artist will then take rent deposits from more than one renter, all of whom expect to get keys to the property but show up to find either someone else living there or that the scammer has disappeared into thin air.

According to an article just posted in Inman News on May 2, after Inman brought the Zillow case to the attention of the National Association of Realtors, the group’s general counsel, Laurie Janik, called it “the most sophisticated listing scam that she’d heard of.”

In my opinion, it’s not at all sophisticated; in fact, this rental scheme is relatively simple. It’s just that NAR isn’t paying attention to fraud.

One man is taking upon himself to do his job, which is to protect the integrity of listings. Malcolm Waring, the chairman of the Pocono Mountains Association of Realtors’ MLS (PMAR), said he was reviewing his option to bar bar Zillow from posting his MLS’s rental listings. The Zillow rental listing that was cloned belonged to a Realtor® who is a member of PMAR. According to Waring, upon threat of losing rental listings to both Zillow and its subsidiary HotPads, Zillow removed the fake listing. Waring said “I’ve been assured that they’re going to beef up fraud prevention.” But, if this happens again (and it will), “it’s going to be the last time.”

I’ve never met Malcolm Waring, but I like him already.

Laurie Janik of NAR said she has informed NAR’s legal department “so that they also are aware of the latest tactics.” Note that this means NAR wants their staff to be “aware” but they have not stated they intend to do anything affirmative to stop this, and other listing-stealing, so that both consumers and Realtors are protected.

If you’re a Realtor® or a consumer who wants NAR to do something about this, please send an email to Laurie Janik @ ljanik@realtors.org. Her phone number is 312-329-8270.

Read the original article in Inman News, which did the public a genuine service by publishing this information.

© Copyright 2007-2017 Monique Bryher

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The information and notices contained on The California Real Estate Fraud Report are intended to summarize recent developments in real estate fraud, mortgage fraud, short sale fraud, REO fraud, appraisal fraud, loan modification scams, loan modification fraud and other real estate related crimes occurring in Los Angeles and California. The posts on this site are presented as general research and information and are expressly not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice. Much of the information on this site concerns allegations made in civil lawsuits and in criminal indictments. All persons are presumed innocent until convicted of a crime. Readers who have particular questions about real estate fraud, mortgage fraud and appraisal fraud matters or who believe they require legal counsel should seek the advice of an attorney.

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