It seems there are scammers who specialize in every type of scam you can think of. We’ve all been targets of the Nigerian prince email scam. There are scammers who target credit cards, elderly people, you name it. The one I’ve become acutely aware of is scammers who “steal” rental listings because this has affected us directly.
Here’s how it works. Someone in another state (or another country, for all I know) sees that we use Rently self-showing lockboxes. (These fabulous lockboxes allow for self-showings by implementing a secure registration process.) Scammers create their own ad on Craigslist, using our property details and photos—I have not been able to figure out how they choose which properties to “steal.” The main differences in the ads are that they offer the property at a drastically reduced rent and provide their phone number instead of ours. Here’s an actual example—our ad on the left is the real one (nuts, right?!):
Unsuspecting Citizen X is looking for a great place to live and finds the scammer’s ad, thinking, “Wow, that’s a whole lotta house at such a low price! I’ve got to see it!” They call or text the number and are told to go to the property and then call them once there. At the property, they call and if all goes the scammer’s way, Citizen X provides their credit card and other personal info over the phone. If Citizen X likes the property and wants to rent it, the scammer will collect a security deposit and then disappear. Amazingly, it has even happened that people have moved in to a home based on dealing with a scammer!
Thankfully, it appears that no one has fallen for the scam with any of our listings. In fact, we’ve been contacted by people who saw the scam ad, thought it was too good to be true, researched further and called to warn us of the scam. I’ve contacted the police a few times about this but it’s pretty much impossible to track these criminals down.
So, although we can’t prevent scammers from trying, we have a number of safeguards in place to prevent them from being successful:
- Our Rently lockboxes use really cool, high level security to prevent scammers. You can only register for a self-showing when you are within something like 100 feet of the property—this prevents scammers in another state from completing the registration. It also requires you to take and submit a photo of yourself in real time—this prevents you from sending a photo (which is then static) to the scammer for them to submit it. There are a number of other amazing security features incorporated and it stops a lot of bad actors in their tracks. Yay!
- Our sign is at the property. It provides our name and phone number. That alone alerts some people to the scam.
- If unsuspecting Citizen X makes it to the front door, they will then see this sticker:
At High Fidelity Properties, we take this issue seriously and do our very best to protect our potential customers from getting taken in by a scam. Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know? If so, please tell us about it!