Online Rental Scams are a Major Problem

Note: Columbus REALTORS® is no longer posting individual rental scam alerts on the Alerts page. If you do encounter a fake listing on Zillow, Trulia or Craigslist please take the following steps.

Online rental scams continue to be a major problem, and you should protect your listings.

Zillow, Trulia and Craiglist are big targets for phony rental scams and REALTORS® all across the country are victims of these online information thieves. However, there are ways to protect yourself and your listings.

Craiglist is the most common online platform for false rentals (because it's free). However, for sale listings have been known to appear on Trulia, Zillow and several other online sites. We recommend you search your listing addresses regularly to ensure that your listing, seller information and your information are not being used fraudulently.

One way to keep on top of this is to enter each of your listing addresses as a Google Alert. This may seem time consuming, but it's worth it in the long run. Google will then send you an email if it finds one of your queries in its search results.

If you find your listing is inaccurately posted on Zillow or Trulia as a rental, simply click the "report problem" tab under the listing details page and e-mail the staff right away.

If you are victim of a Craigslist rental scam, here's what you need to do:

  1. Alert Craigslist by flagging the post as ‘prohibited’ (top left).
  2. Report the issue to sfbay.craigslist.org/feedback. It’s advised to include the URL, 10-digit post ID number, error messages, etc. in your message.
  3. Contact the seller to alert them of the false Craigslist posting.
  4. Follow up on Craigslist and review the site to ensure the faulty posting is removed.
  5. Do periodic internet searches to ensure your properties are accurately listed on authorized sites.
  6. Go to forums.craigslist.org and tell the community about this scammer. They will shut this person down.
     

Want to get even?
 
There are also ways of getting back at these scammers. One way is called "scambaiting.” If you Google that word, you will find sites where you can read scambaits, post the e-mail content and e-mail addresses of scammers, post the fake web site, read up on how to alert a hosting company that they are hosting a fake web site, ask questions, and learn all about the hobby of scambaiting.

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If you've ever been scammed, had your identity stolen or fallen prey to online fraud, the FTC wants to hear about it. Although the FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, it does use the data to track patterns of wrong-doing and can help with investigations and prosecutions.

To report fraud to the FTC, just head to the FTC Complaint Assistant site and fill out the information online. The form will walk you through the basics of reporting your complaint.

Unfortunately, based on our experience the FTC site could use some interface improvements -- the form is bit wonky, sometimes automatically taking you to the next page, other times requiring a button press.

It only takes a few extra steps to prevent and protect yourself and others from online scammers. The few extra minutes spent now will undoubtedly prevent future frustration and hassle for yourself and others in the future.