Real estate agency warns of online rental fraud | news

HANNIBAL – A real estate company is warning the community to be aware of a rise in online rental scams and always know who you’re working with.

Prestige Realty broker Sheri Neisen and Prestige Realty office manager Sarah Hathaway have both received reports of scams from residents, which usually come in the form of a personal message sending pictures of pirated homes from real estate agencies.

While they can’t necessarily track or prevent the scams, Neisen and Hathaway hope to bring information to the public so they can avoid scams and report them if approached.

People looking for apartments for rent often post on their personal profile or in various Facebook groups to search for specific criteria, such as: B. a house with two bedrooms and one bathroom. The scammer then replies in a personal message with pictures of a local home that has everything they’re looking for.

They can’t pinpoint exactly where their pictures were pirated from, but it could be from real estate sites like Zillow or, where properties aren’t immediately removed from the sites after real estate agencies update them as sold.

The scammer will often urge that a deposit be paid to hold the property.

Payment is not usually requested through secure or trackable methods like Paypal or Venmo, but through various types of gift cards. One person Neisen spoke to was alarmed and stopped speaking to a potential landlord when asked to pay with a Walmart Gold card by sending pictures of both sides of the card.

Scammers also sometimes provide a fake phone number that can appear as local via a phone app that sends a different number than where the text or call is actually sent.

Scammers’ Facebook profiles are also not legitimate names.

Neisen reported odd spellings with irregular spacing and capitalization; She came across one named “Vinny” presented as “Vi N ny”.

The scammer will also sometimes give the person they message permission to walk around the property they are advertising, which may or may not be vacant.

“This scares me because some of these lots could be occupied,” Neisen said.

Hathaway said with the current shortage of rental housing in the area, scammers are taking advantage of desperate situations.

“If someone with a family is weeks away from being kicked out of their home, they’re much more likely to write back to a scammer,” she said.

The rental scam price is usually low for the area and often includes all utilities and other perks like a pet-friendly landlord to put the pressure on for a down payment before someone else snags the deal.

Neisen said it’s unfortunate because many spend up to $500 in a scam and are unable to match that sum on a legitimate rent.

“Now they are stuck and have to find a place to stay,” she says.

Neisen and Hathaway are urging anyone dealing with a potential landlord online to ensure they have a local connection to speak to and verify their identity.

Neisen said there aren’t many outside investors renting properties in the area, but those who do usually have a local contact such as a property manager.

“We have some investment properties listed by an owner in Colorado, but (Prestige) would be that local contact,” she said. “If you google the property you will see that we have it listed.”

Looking at the pictures of the property that were sent, they said it’s also a good idea to look up that address on Zillow or and see if they are currently or previously listed, and then call the real estate agent through whom the property is listed .

“Always google and verify,” Hathaway said.

There are websites other than Facebook that are used for rental fraud.

Neisen once spotted a rental ad on Craig’s List for a property that had been sold through Prestige the previous year. She contacted the owner, who she didn’t believe was trying to rent the property, and he had to arrange for the post to be removed from the website.

Another scam that Prestige hasn’t looked into, but which they constantly monitor and warn customers about is wire transfer scams. This takes place during the deal when a scammer intercepts the deal and sends a fake email from the title company with wiring instructions.

Neisen said a real estate agent in California reported that a buyer lost nearly $1 million in a wire transfer requested from a fake email address. She also said that a few years ago, a Hannibal agent from another agency received an email requesting a transfer, but it was intercepted before any money was sent.

Missouri now has a referral fraud brochure that they distribute to all of their customers.

“We always tell our people never follow wiring instructions unless you’re hearing directly from your agent,” Neisen said. “We’ll call them and say we’ll send you instructions via wire transfer or we’ll have the title company send instructions and it’ll be that person at that email address.”

Neisen and Hathaway urge everyone to call Prestige Realty if they need help verifying that a rental property is legitimate and to remain vigilant if contacted by a potential landlord.

“If something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Hathaway said.

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