Hey everybody, Jen Holba here with the Debbie Zois team. I have something that I want to talk about, I am actually heading down to the police station right now to hopefully try and file a report against a scam that I fell into. It’s a rental scam for a house for rent and I’m beyond embarrassed that I found myself in this predicament.
But here we are, and I want to talk about it so that other people don’t experience the same thing I have, and can learn from my mistake.
So for a few months my husband and I have been looking at rentals. We’ve been using the MLS. We’ve been using Zillow – and every once in a while, we’ll glance at Craigslist because some agents or owners will market their rentals on Craigslist.
The other day we responded to a rental on Craigslist and it looked totally legit. Had all the same verbiage that an agent would have in an ad. When we asked the, supposedly, property manager to see the house, he told us that he was just there and that he left the back door unlocked. That he was running around the corner and he would be back to lock up, but to go ahead and help ourselves.
He knew that I was a licensed agent and so we thought that he was giving us the thumbs up to walk through the house because of that. So we walked the house, we love the house. It’s slightly under priced, which was kind of a red flag to me. It seemed sort of too good to be true.
It wasn’t unrealistic based on our market at the moment, but it definitely was a little under priced. So we fell in love with it. We called him back and asked him what we needed to do to place an application. At that point, he asked us for our email addresses and we gave them to him.
He sent us an application that was three pages long, had a company logo on the top, had a Henderson address, a phone number, a contact for first and last name – looked fairly legit, you know. I’ve been selling real estate for 20 years now and at that point I did not second guess what was happening. I filled out the application and my husband filled out the application.
It said on there that if we were independent contractors, that we would need to provide bank statements and 1099’s – our tax information. We gathered everything up and we emailed it over at right at that point, after we emailed all of our stuff over, I had this kind of intuition – kind of this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I’m like, this just seems too easy and something’s not right.
So I got on the multiple listing service to look at the home and see if I could figure out who the owners were, see if it was rented previously and kind of start to do some research that, in retrospect, I should have done before providing my application.
I quickly realized that the home was listed for sale and that I didn’t see a rental in the multiple listing service. So I called the listing agent and I asked her what if she knew that the property was listed for sale and she immediately replied with, “Oh my God, I can’t believe it. They’re trying to scam the owner again.” She went on and on to talk about how this has been going on for weeks and that she’s contacted the online FBI, filed police reports and she just can’t seem to get it to stop.
At that point I panicked and I thought, “I just sent over every piece of personal information to a scam artist.” Quickly, Tim and I got online and once we realized what was going on, we jumped on creditkarma.com, went to all three credit bureaus and locked down our credit.
Now, there’s a lock option and there’s a free option. If you lock your credit, you can lock and unlock it as you choose. Nobody can pull your FICO score. Nobody can apply for credit cards. And it’s easy for you to go on as a consumer and unlock it when you need to use it.
So as an example, Tim and I are still looking for a rental and we’re going to need to unlock it when we find something so that the owner can run our credit. We also went in immediately and froze all of our bank accounts. We closed every last one of them. It was a real pain and it’s still a little bit of a pain, but we got it done. We were proactive to make sure that our financial information is secure and that our credit is isn’t jeopardized by this at least not anytime soon.
So here I am. Now, I’m sitting at the police station. I am going to go in and I’m going to file a report. The scammer did hit us up yesterday, looking for money. He would like us to wire money to a bank account that he’s going to give us the account number for.
And once we do that, he will make arrangements to meet us with the keys to our new apartment. It’s pretty comical. So let’s see what the police station says and I will get back.
Well, that was quick. The police police department said that because a crime has not been committed, meaning – first thing they asked me was, has this person taken money from you? And I said, no. They said that there’s nothing they can do.
What they did was they referred me to file a report at ic3.gov, which is the internet division for the FBI. She said to to file a report there. Then she reiterated that I should call all of my credit bureaus and freeze all my accounts and all my information. So not a whole lot that police department can do. Thank God we didn’t lose any money.
We didn’t wire them the money, like they asked – we caught onto it quickly. But I have to tell you that I’m still so embarrassed that I fell for it. I never thought, especially with my experience, that I would walk into a trap like this. So clearly it’s everywhere. I’ve been told since this whole thing started that there are listings on Zillow that are fictitious.
So it’s not only Craigslist. It can be on Zillow or a reputable website as well. So be careful. Make some phone calls before you provide any information. Sounds silly to say it, but do some research. If it doesn’t feel right, chances are, it might not be right. Stick with your gut and I hope you learn from my lesson.