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Has anyone else had their info "stolen" from Zillow, posted on Craigslist as an ad for a rental scam

I had a call today from someone who saw an ad for my rental house on craigslist. When he did some research, he discovered that the info was "stolen" from Zillow and posted on Craigslist. He talked to the fake owner and the owner asked him to drive by the house and if he liked it, he could mail a deposit and get the keys. The potential rentor emailed me via Zillow to warn me of this SCAM. Very scary!
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December 10 2010 - Monroe
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I have not figured out where they are taking the information from.  But I have had this happened several times.  I am trying to be positive about it and talk to the people calling about the "fake" rental and trying to turn them into a potential lead.
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January 11 2011
I've had noticalby more junk mail from people trying to sell me marketing tools and a few calls from some psychotic lonely person that had clearly read some of my posts on zillow and called to "talk"- it's not really any different than if they picked up a print ad somewhere.  I'd say - set yourself some safety rules and always follow them.  Unfortunately in your example someone else was the target and your info was the bait, hope it was a one time thing!    I would keep that in mind when you post things, to think twice and consider if you provided information that increases your own risk to personal safety (not sure why anyone would...but- it's good to remember not to do so).
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January 11 2011
Unfortunately, the Craigslist scams happen frequently. Those scam artists have it down to a science - using the real MLS photos and always coming up with a story about how they (the owner)  are out of town or disabled and can't meet them to show them the house, etc, etc.

I had a rental listing if mine hijacked" in that manner. The fake owner told the potential tenant to "peek in the windows" and have a look! I happened to be there when she did !

Craigslist needs to be notified right away , and they will immediately delete the entry.
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January 11 2011
It's always a bad idea to wire money unless you know who your dealing with.
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January 11 2011
Here's a refresher on our Scams and Fraud post we created:
http://www.zillow.com/wikipages/Beware-of-Scams-and-Other-Internet-Fraud/

Use Caution with the Following:

  • Long distance inquiries. Although Zillow enables long-distance as well as local interactions between users, you should take extra care in long-distance situations, especially from users in foreign countries. We have seen a number of scam attempts that involve individuals in foreign countries who say they are interested in purchasing homes.
  • Requests for personal and or financial information. With identity theft on the rise, it is a good general rule to provide your personal/financial information sparingly, and only to trusted sources.
  • Requests that you send or wire funds. Although this seems obvious, you should never agree to accept and/or wire funds for anything you did not initiate.
  • Offers to facilitate a home purchase or loan or rental by an individual 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.
  • Suggestions to use Zillow for money exchanges. Zillow does not handle money exchanges between buyers and sellers or tenants and landlords.  Anyone telling you otherwise is probably trying to scam you. (See Scam Example #4 below).
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January 11 2011
Yes, in today's world this type of activity does occur.  All photos that we post to the internet contain our logo prominently.  This helps to discourage this practice and also lets interested residents know who to reach should they have any questions.
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December 19 2010

In Response to Kristin:

I would like to add to NEVER wire money to anyone! This is extremely common for these thugs, especially through Western Union. Meet the agent at their place of business and demand to see their Real Estate License issued by the Department of Real Estate.

In San Diego, it was like the flood gates opened there for a while where vacant homes for rent or sale with signs in front where being fraudulently rented out to multiple victims through open type houses or the scammer would act like they were the listing agent and had the home open and acted like they had a key to open the door.

Also the scammer would replace the sign with his own sign and then the victims would show up and give deposits on site because of the great deal and urgency. Then people would show up to move in and there was no house to rent.

You really have to be on your toes and one step ahead of them.

Meet them at their ESTABLISHED place of business with permanent signs bolted to the exterior wall to exchange funds.

You can also log onto the Department of Real Estate's web site at http://www.dre.ca.gov  to find out the status of their license, which also gives the address of business of the designated broker (may have multiple locations).

May seem extreme, but ask yourself, is the amount of deposit worth making a few checks to make sure you are dealing directly with the authorized agent in the transaction?

If you are dealing directly with the owner, you can cross reference the name with the County Assessor's Office and ask the owner for their ID to make sure they match. Walk away if you can not meet them in person, the scammers online are always on a trip somewhere, that is why they can not meet up with you, yeah right!

...
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December 18 2010
Profile picture for Cynabudd
Thank you everyone for your answers. It's comforting to know that others have dealt with this. :-)
I've been scanning the web for the past week...the SCAM ad on Craiglist has not appeared but the people who have fallen victim for the SCAM still drive by every single day! Several have taken it upon themselves to drive right up to our house if our security gate is open even for a minute. It's really getting on my nerves.
In answer to the Zillow rep: In addition to an ad that I placed on Craigslist (no address) I briefly posted a "for rent" ad on Zillow and I think that is how this all started. I will never use Zillow to advertise rental properties. The SCAM artist connected my photos on Craigslist with my ad on Zillow (same photos) and he revealed the address to callers who responded to his ad. 
I have several rentals and have never revealed an address until I screen the tenant and meet them at the secured property. I'm not sure what to do at this point because even though all the ads are pulled, the SCAM continues to go on.
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December 17 2010
OK, this happened to me this past summer. I had a vacant lease listing, offered at $2475/month. Of course I had my sign in front of the property.

After about a week I got a call from a prospective tenant asking to see the house. As I was showing it to him he asked why the price difference? He had seen it on Craigslist offered at $1600/month. ( A figure FAR too good to be true.)

He had an email conversation with the "landlord", who had been "transferred to Nigeria". ( 2nd red flag - after the too low price.) If he drove by and liked the house, he would be allowed to rent it with NO security deposit. ( 3rd red flag.)

Just send a cashier's check for one months rent, directly to the landlord - who had taken the trouble to search the title records for the real owner's name, and then made up a Yahoo mail account, which INCLUDED THAT NAME! - and the "landlord" would mail him back the keys to the property.

Fortunately, the tenant drove by, noticed my sign, and finally got the truth about the property. I then filed a complaint against the bogus landlord with C/L and they removed the ad immediately. ( It did re-appear a few days later, and I complained again.)

I would suggest that ALL agents & landlords look out for this scam - and to prospective tenants, if it seems too good to be true, AND has numerous other red flags, use your heads, and don't fall for something so obviously a scam.
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December 15 2010
Hi,
We don't expose the owner's name or email address on Zillow. The only way to contact an owner of a FSBO, Make Me Move, or For Rent property is through a form on Zillow that sends an email to the owner via our system. If the owner replies to that email sent via Zillow by a scammer, they could reveal their name that way.

It's disappointing there are people out there preying on trusting folks. We all know it's wise to never send checks or money via mail to anyone you haven't met.

Kristin
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December 14 2010
There is a STEP that many users do NOT do and that is to WATERMARK their photos.  There are FREE websites for doing this * it takes 5 minutes * and it REALLY saves this hassle.

Unfortunately, many MLS systems still do not allow a significant watermark so public listings are still being scammed.
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December 12 2010

They log onto Zillow all the time trying to grab the owner's name so they can set up their scams.

What is scary is they are able to obtain our names as agents and then obtain the name of the homeowner from someone either trying to helpful or trying to score points to get a sell.

There was an agent in my previous office where this happened three times on the same house and one even paid out a deposit that was wired, Ouch!

I am totally scanning the net when I am selling or leasing property.

Hope it worked out in your favor...

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December 10 2010
 
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  • Asked by Cynabudd
  • In Landlords
  • December 10 2010
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