Watch out for rental scams on Internet, check local listing first

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

The real estate market is heating up. Sales are up and the number of homes in eastern Idaho is peaking.

Getting the buyer’s eyes on the homes takes patience and diligence. For Nicole Halverson, office assistant to Mike Hicks and Susan Richey, at Keller Williams Realty East Idaho, it’s more than a full-time job. Traditional marketing — billboard, fliers and advertising — are still used as are Internet — Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Those Internet posts include text, photos and maps. Software can make those posts much easier, and refreshed at regular intervals for “top” spot viewing. With six agents, and all their listings, and updates, Halverson says it’s constant vigilance.  “We do post our homes for sale on Craigslist,” says Halverson. “The program we use takes care of monitoring the listings and keeping them fresh.”

On Tuesday, Halverson received an email from Misty Phillips, of Idaho Falls, asking about a property and telling a story of how Burl Summers, who was allegedly on a mission, was using the pictures, description and a craigslist to steal people’s money.

Halverson says, while disheartening, real estate scams are prevalent today and are showing no signs of going away. She says it’s constant monitoring that keeps them from taking advantage of the listings she posts.  She takes notifies the listing board as quickly as she finds them, but they are prevalent.

These common scams involve a con artist advertising a house as a rental when it is not. In fact, it’s a house that is actually for sale and being advertised on a legitimate real estate company’s website or posted on an Internet sale board.

The scammer typically copies the post, alters it to respond to him/her at an overseas address.

For Phillips, she says she found a 2-bedroom, 2 bath home for rent for $600 a month. Summers told her to send the money to Mr. Baba Tunde Afovayan of Nigeria, who was taking care of business concerns. When she emailed him, and explained she couldn’t pay the $600 first month or the $500 deposit until July 1, replied saying he only needed $100 down for now.

Taking initiative, Phillips drove to the home in Ammon. As she pulled up, she noticed the Keller Williams sign, emailed Halverson, called BBB, and texted Afovayan. When she confronted him, he told her the realtor was mad at him for canceling.

BBB says the con artist takes the picture from the website and puts it on his fraudulent website. He advertises on craigslist that the house is for rent, asking for first and last month’s rent. A web address is given to view the house. The prospective tenant checks out the house online and sends the deposit. Many times con artists ask their victims to wire the money.

BBB warns, once the money is gone there is no getting it back. The con artist, whether in Nigeria or Canada, is gone, moving to his next victim.

Being proactive is your defense. Do your homework before sending money to anyone you don’t know. Ask questions.

  • Check with your state assessor’s office to determine who owns the property.
  • Do an Internet search of the address and see if the property shows up on any real estate website for rent or for sale. If the property that was advertised for rent on craigslist shows up for sale on a real estate website, there is a serious problem. Contact the real estate company and apprise them of the situation.
  • Contact the neighbors of the property you are planning on renting, if possible. Ask them about the owner and status of the property. Is it for sale? Or rent? Or in foreclosure?

1 Comment

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One response to “Watch out for rental scams on Internet, check local listing first

  1. Mark Burrows

    This is important. Right now, there is no safe haven to invest your money or make a market purchase. There are Bear Markets everywhere, world wide. That simply means widespread fear and pessimism for investors and stock holders. Therefore, it is a prime market for con artists and scam perpetrators. Their greatest tool is your optimism that there is light at the end of the tunnel, or you have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor.
    The reality of economics is this: stocks are down. Bonds have been over saturated, it is so bad, that one of the more popular investments is buying debt. When you buy debt, it is like strong arming someone to pay up in a limited time or else.
    Interests rates are at an all time historical bottom. The ultra wealthy are sitting on their cash, forcing treasuries to print more. The question is: On what reserve are they printing money on? It isn’t gold, that’s been gone for years. Anyone trying to rob Fort Knox would be sadly disappointed. Even the De Beers family sold most of it’s business in diamonds.
    The point is simple. If the rich are not moving their money. We would be bigger fools to spend or invest ours.
    The moral of my story is also simple, and you can use it as a mantra. Live within your means.
    Keep your credit cards low or destroy them and set a goal to pay them off in time to maintain your credit score. Do not borrow nor lend money. Purchase what is necessary from resources that well known and reliable. Most important of all, have little trust in offers made on the internet.
    It takes years to become an experienced internet shopper. Once you have established yourself as an experienced internet shopper, you also have to accept the universal law of Caveat Emptor which means, Let The Buyer Beware, and also means that if you buy it, you fully accept the risk, and any complaint you have is invalid. You get what you deserve.
    I am an expert online shopper, and yes, I have been burned a few times, but I also know who burned me, and how to affect their business with the ripple effect. But as per code. I kept the things I bought as reminders not to fall prey to those pitfalls again. It does not deter me, nor causes me regret, because whining does not help the good fight.

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