The following is an article By Diane Tuman posted on Zillow that really gets to the heart of an issue we’ve witnessed right here in Utah. There’s stories across the country of people being scammed by for Sale or Rent posts. Of course the article focuses on Zillow but we’ve seen it on KSL.com, Craigslist and others. We all should take note, be aware, and pass along to our unsuspecting friends and neighbors.
Beware of Scams and Other Internet Fraud
Scams are a reality of shopping online and offline. Zillow strives to provide a safe online community, but you should always be wary of giving personal information, financial information, or payments of any kind to people you don’t know personally.
Important: If you find a fraudulent listing on Zillow, please report it by clicking “Report Listing” and selecting “Listing seems to be fraudulent or illegal.” on the listing page in question.
Red Flags for Scams
Requests to wire funds via MoneyGram or Western Union
Most scams involve a request to wire funds. Do not wire funds to anyone you haven’t met personally. Scammers create convincing reasons why they need to deal remotely. Likewise, do not accept wire funds that you did not initiate.
Most scams come from users in foreign countries who claim to be interested in purchasing or renting out a home. Be wary of claims from people who are contacting you from abroad because they are missionaries, U.N. workers, or in the military.
Requests for verification codes
If you are asked to provide a code sent to your cell phone via text or phone call, this is a scam.
Requests for personal or financial information
Do not provide your bank account number or Social Security Number to unknown sources. First verify it is a trusted source and then only provide this information sparingly.
Individuals claiming an affiliation with Zillow
Zillow acts only as a source of information and is not involved in any transactions between buyers and sellers, renters and landlords, or borrowers and lenders. Any such offers are fraudulent activity.
Using Zillow for money exchanges
Zillow does not handle money exchanges or escrow between buyers and sellers or tenants and landlords.
Typos and sob stories
Emails filled with spelling and grammatical errors are usually a sign of fraud. British spelling such as “favour” instead of “favor” is also a sign of a rental scam. Messages involving stories of family or financial issues, or of agents who charge too high a premium are usually fraud.
Report Scams and Fraud
If you find a fraudulent listing on Zillow, please return to the listing page and click “Report Listing” and select “Listing seems to be fraudulent or illegal.”
If you believe you have been scammed, report the incident to the FTC. If you sent money via Western Union or MoneyGram, report the incident immediately: if the recipient hasn’t collected the money yet, the wire transfer company can reverse the transfer.
When reporting scams, include as much as possible of the following: the name and address of the sender, the send location, the date and amount of the transfer, the transfer fee, the date and actual location of the receipt, the name of the receiver, any information recorded regarding the receiver’s identification, the reference number for the transfer, and the details of the nature of the issue.
Examples of Scams
Below are examples of fraudulent emails received by Zillow users.
“I’m out of the country and need you to wire me the deposit.”
How the scam works: You find a great rental (it’s usually too good to be true), but the landlord is located out of state or out of the country. They’ll rent it to you and mail you the keys if you just send a deposit.
Tip: Don’t wire money to anyone you haven’t met in person. If it looks like a great deal and is too good to be true, it’s likely a scam. You will lose your money, and the place you were looking at isn’t really even on the market.
Thanks for your email and interest in renting my house.
Property is available for move in at the moment for $1250 for the month rent and $1200 for the security deposit (Refundable After Lease period, As long as there are no damages on property after inspection). For immediate move in you would be required to make a total payment of $2450 but if you are not moving in Immediately, you would be required to make a down payment of $1200 for the security deposit Non- negotiable, to hold property till desired move in date.
Unfortunately, I would not be present in person to show you the property due to my recent job transfer to London, UK, and I do not have a local representative to show the house due to my transfer so if you are interested in renting the property and willing to work with me despite my absence then I would email the necessary papers for the lease to you, for necessary endorsement.
I also want to tell you that the neighborhood is secured and the people staying there are good.
Details of the house is below;
Security Deposit: $1200
3 Bedrooms, 1.75 Bathroom.
Location: Kirkland WA 98033.
Street Address: 12721 Northeast 101st Place.
Pets Allowed: Cats and Dogs.
Size: 1,800 sqft.
Home available for immediate move in.
This is a charming home in Kirkland.
Lovely move in ready 3 bedroom, 1.75 bath, rambler, located on quiet cul-de-sac. Approx. 1800 sq ft., built in 1989. Bright and airy interior that has been beautifully updated and well-maintained.
Exterior Sun Blockers roll-shutters for max insulation & security.
Other features include security system, built-in vacuum system and skylights. High quality throughout. Neutral colors. Master suite with private bath and two walk in closets. Spacious kitchen with tons of oak cabinets and all appliances (refrig, range, microwave). Very light and open, Washer and dryer included. 2-car attached garage with opener.
Yard service included and home is pet friendly!
Mark A Ross.
“I overpaid you with my money order. Please send some back.”
How the scam works: A renter or buyer agrees to wire you money for a deposit, but accidentally sends too much. They ask you to wire back the over-payment and you must “act now.” You send the “overpayment” back and their check fails to clear the bank. Now, the money you sent is gone forever.
Tip: Don’t wire money to anyone you haven’t met in person.
Example email exchange:
“Thanks for the speedy response, I am really excited that the house is in good condition, and i really love the pictures of the house i have seen so far, i would not mind to see more pictures of the home, i would like to know if i would have any repairs what so ever.
I work with the United nations development program (UNDP).I have been working there for 5 years.
I am married with no kid. I and my Wife actually got married last year. My Full name is PXXXX AXXXX kXXXX and my Wife’s name is MXXXX DXXXX kXXXX. she is a school teacher, I am 39 years old and my wife is 35.Our current house address is 3XXXXXXXXXXXXX, EXXXXX Edinburgh Scotland.
I have never bought a property abroad before, this would be my first, and i am not working alongside any agents, I also want to know how soon you are willing to move out of the house. I and my wife are looking to relocate as soon as we have found a home we like, I would also like to know your final price for this property. please kindly get back to me asap.”
This is the follow-up from a Zillow user:
“I just wanted to let FSBO sellers know that I listed my house on Zillow a few weeks ago, and I received an email from a man in Scotland wanting to buy my house. He sent me (3) $1,000.00 money grams, one of which was a deposit to hold the house. He sent an Urgent email yesterday stating that his company (United Nations) sent us $2,000.00 by mistake to send it back to him. He wanted new money orders from my bank. I emailed him back telling him that I checked with money gram and I was told they could not find any information to verify them. I haven’t heard back from him, nor do I expect to.”
“Please wire me a deposit. Zillow will guarantee your money!”
How the scam works: You’re asked to wire money, and told that Zillow (or some other authoritative-sounding organization) will guarantee the money and protect you. No such guarantee exists.
Tip: Zillow is not involved in transactions between buyers/sellers, renters/landlords, or borrowers/lenders. If you wire money based on communication that “Zillow will guarantee it,” you will become a victim of a scam and it’s unlikely you will get your money back. Remember: Zillow is NOT involved in transactions.
Thanks for taking the time to look at my property.
My name is Julia, I’m 55 years old, I’m a retired engineer and I’m the owner of this condo (total 900sqf. 1 Bedroom apartment, 1 bath fully accessorized). I lived in this beautiful condo for over 5 years and loved every day of it. The condo is fully furnished with all necessary amenities (exactly like in the pics), has a very large bedroom with spacious inbuilt wardrobe , living room with dining area, 1 bathroom, dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer. The condo come with two parking spots, a storage unit where you can deposit my furniture (if you don’t like it and you want use your furniture). Pets allowed. Four months ago I moved to Bismarck, North Dakota at my sons place to take care of my 2 years old nephew. I really want to find a good and responsible tenant for it, and I hope that you can send me some personal information about yourself.
The monthly rent for the apartment is US $700. I want to receive first month’s advance $700 refundable deposit ($1400 TOTAL).
I am looking for someone to rent anywhere from 3 months to 5 years. Everything is included (water, electricity, Internet, cable, parking, air conditioning, fireplace, dishwasher, garbage) and I want to receive the money monthly in my bank account. You can move in the condo in the same day when you receive the keys. The only problem is that I`m the only person who has the keys and I have nobody in the area that could show you the condo (my son and nephew are my only family). In order to check & see if you like it (I’m sure that you’ll love it), you need to receive the keys and the contract by postal service (USPS 2 Days Delivery). Obviously we need a way to complete this deal in a safe and fast way for both of us and the solution is provided by a company called Zillow ( www.Zillow.com I am already registered with them since 5 years ago i purchased the apartment from their website) which will handle the payment and delivery of the Keys. They have a Tenant Deposit Protection, here you can see here how Zillow.com Payment Services work (i got from one of their email-letters). They have a program that protects the tenants deposit and makes sure that the tenant is fully satisfied with the condo before I receive the money. In conclusion, the money will be deposited and locked in their custody until you will be able to view & accept the condo.
If you want to know more about how this deal can work please get back to me ASAP and I will send you the step by step procedure. Let me know if you are interested because I really need to take care of this matter by the end of the next week. Please don’t forget also to send some information about you and the people with who you will be living with.
“I have a lot of money and need your help moving it out of the country.”
How the scam works: Someone very official or important-sounding needs your help moving money, and they promise you a large bonus in return. If you reply, they ask for relatively small sums to move the process along (fees, verification checks, etc).
Tip: Beware long-distance inquiries, requests to wire funds, or requests for personal information.
I have received the information concerning your house, the price is $239,750.Am very confident dealing with you. I am willing and capable to buy the property, but i want to trust you with this confidential proposal.
Before i continue, let me introduce myself to you, I am Captain IXXXX HXXXX the commander of the Special N.A.T.O coalition force with the United Nation troops in Iraq, on war against terrorism. My country is Germany.
I have now in my possession the sum of USD 6.5 million which was recovered from one of our raids on terrorists camps here in Iraq, because they keep most of their money at home for evil activities which they normally get through illegal deals on crude oil.
Based on the suffering we undergo here some of us do meet such luck. It happened that in our last raid last week we raided one of the terrorist strong base here in Iraq, though some of the men in my unit lost their lives in the fierce attacks, and we recovered this huge sum of money. This box of money have been deposited with the RED CROSS OFFICE here in Baghdad informing them that contacts are been made for its safe keeping and to make contacts for its proper use . As the team leader it is under my power to approve whoever comes forth for this money.
So i need someone i can deal with on trust and that is why i contacted you. so If you accept, I will put you forward as the beneficiary/owner of the funds and then move the money to you in Europe first. As a military personnel i cannot parade such an amount or carry it to my country so i need to present someone as the beneficiary. I just need your acceptance and all is done. I have a 100% authentic means of transferring the money through diplomatic courier service to you in Europe where arrangements will be made to proceed to your country America.
Once i confirm your interest to my proposal. And your positive reply i will proceed to register your name as the beneficiary.
If you are interested, then let me know so i can proceed to register the consignment in your name as time is very important to me. I am doing this on trust, you should understand that as a trained military expert I will always be carefully in my dealings so everything is intact. This money is my life and i am willing to give you 30% of the total sum when the money is delivered to you. I wait for your response so we can proceed immediately. In less than 7days the money should be in your safe custody.
The only telephone access we have is radio message which is for our general use and is being monitored, therefore all communication will be via email till we finish our assignment here and fly straight to your country to meet you. Thank God that the new President Elect, Barrack Obama whose keen interest is to call us back home soon.”
“I want to buy your property. Please send sensitive information.”
How the scam works: Someone contacts you remotely and proposes to buy or rent your property. They may ask for personal information that can be used to steal your identity or rob your bank account.
Tip: Beware long-distance inquiries or requests for personal information.
“I am interested in purchasing the property on 17 LXXXX Rd, CXXX HXXXX VXXXX CO XXXXX. Although the price is much “$4,000,000″. But i will convince my client regarding the property is a Single Family Residential. I know he must like it. I will like to view the copy of the contract of sale. As you are the real owner for this property. I will like to view the contract of sale. So it can be checked for any irregularities. Once the contract is okay and has been given the thumbs up by my client. I can then contact you and make an offer according to your request or Advise. I look forward hearing from you
Sincerely, Mr. CXXXX KXXXX BXXXX
7XXXX TXXXX bldg. 1-XX-XX HXXXX-IXXXX, TXXXX-XX ,
By Diane Tuman