Hotpads SCAM!!!!!

32 Replies

So I used Postlets to advertise my rent house on Hotpads, etc. Now someone has hijacked my ad, is using the same pics and description but with a different phone number and email address.

One potential tenant called and told me about it, after she looked at the ad yesterday she noticed the price change this morning. She called the number and the guy was asking for her SS #, personal info etc.

Anyone have a similar experience?

No, but that is very scary - did you notify HotPads?

@Brianna S. Yes, I just did. Apparently, this is very common. They try to get the renter to send them a security deposit or try to get personal info, according to what I've read.

Same thing happened to me last week, using Postlets and a potential tenant called me and let me know there was a fake ad on Zillow for my house. I reported the listing as fraudulent to Zillow, and they quickly removed it.

I was looking at craigslist yesterday and noticed many pictures have a watermark over them with the name of the company posting the ad. Not sure how difficult it is to remove these watermarks in photoshop, but it would make your pictures that much harder to use.

@Jon Holdman good idea! Removing watermarks in Photoshop is more time consuming than most scammers are willing to commit to.....BUT I noticed they only used the pic of the front of the house, all the other pics were from other houses listed for rent in the area....I recognized some from pulling rent comps.

@Jason C. so this is happening on Zillow as well?

Looks like I've got some investigating to do.

I have stopped posting the front of the house for two reasons:

a) Scammers can't pull it.

b) Someone can't identify it online and know it's vacant.

I've had this happen before too. The scammers just target random ads for nicer houses on all of the common places people list rentals (hotpads,zillow, craigslist, etc). I've had them steal the entire ad and drop the price in half and try to get people to wire them the deposit.....meanwhile I have people showing up at the house and calling the number on the sign wanting to setup a showing for the $600 house they saw on craigslist (even though it's a $1,200 house).

This has been happening a lot in my area. I started adding my company name and phone number to EVERY photo. I use addtext.com. It only takes seconds and is very user friendly.

What these scammers are doing is copying your ad with their phone number. (Usually Google voice). They advertise your house at a low price. They will tell callers that "their cousin" is at the house painting. The caller will go to the house and look in the windows. When they call back, they are told that the cousin must have gone to lunch, Home Depot, another house, etc. They then get the people to fill out an app with all their info. SS#'s are going for $1,000 on the street. Or, they might take a security deposit and rent.

I called a scammer who copied my ad. He was in Africa and wanted me to send him $200 after I told him it was my house and he was a scammer. He said "Americans are rich" and he "has nothing" and his "mom is a prostitute". Apparantly, his problem should be my problem.

Sometimes it's used by rental agents who are trying to lure potential clients in with a bait and switch.

When they field the calls from potential renters, they explain that the place has been rented but they have a few similar listings available.

This happened to me a few weeks ago with Zillow, which I posted to via Postlets. I got a call asking me if the rent was $500 or $800 because there were 2 ads for the same house. The $500 one had a local number; I called it and left a message, but they never returned my call. I contacted Zillow, and within a few hours the false ad was gone.

Originally posted by @Dawn Anastasi :
I have stopped posting the front of the house for two reasons:

a) Scammers can't pull it.

b) Someone can't identify it online and know it's vacant.

Dawn - if you put the address of the property on your ad wouldn't it be just as easy to pull a pic of the front of the property using Google Maps?

Originally posted by @Gautam Venkatesan :
Originally posted by @Dawn Anastasi:
I have stopped posting the front of the house for two reasons:
a) Scammers can't pull it.

b) Someone can't identify it online and know it's vacant.

Dawn - if you put the address of the property on your ad wouldn't it be just as easy to pull a pic of the front of the property using Google Maps?

I don't put the address in the ad.

Originally posted by @Dawn Anastasi :
I don't put the address in the ad.


So you just list the general area/zip code??
Wondering how renters get interested in the property if they don't know where it is...
Originally posted by @Gautam Venkatesan :
Originally posted by @Dawn Anastasi:
I don't put the address in the ad.


So you just list the general area/zip code??
Wondering how renters get interested in the property if they don't know where it is...

Yes, I list the nearest major intersections. Then when people call me to confirm and I get their name and have their number that I give out the address.

This same thing happened to us with Craigslist on three separate occasions. There we just flagged it and reported as fraud. Unfortunately, that seems to be all you can do.

I had it happen on Zillow also.

I don't know if it helps or not, but on zillow you can "claim" your house under the "more" tab that is right under the picture or map.

You guys should also be aware that this can happen when you list a house for sale as well.

We listed my grandmother's house for sale last year after she passed away, and within just a couple days, our listing agent was getting calls about "the house for rent." He had no idea what that was about (this was a first for him), called me to make sure we weren't listing it for rent, then he emailed the scammer pretending to be interested in the rental. The scammer had the typical terrible grammar/spelling and illegal word usage ("looking for good Christian tenants" etc.). Our listing agent emailed him back to knock it off, and we flagged every online listing we could find.

If you find someone running this scam on your property, you should let the neighbors know to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Some scammers actually have enabled their victims (tenants who call about the fake rental ads) to move into the home by breaking in and changing the locks, while the owner/seller is unaware because they aren't checking on the property.

This has happened to some of our ads. In fact, we were working on the roof of a house after our last ice storm and three different families stopped by to check out the "great deal" ($650 rent for a 4 bedroom, 3 bath house I rent for $995). The funny thing is, all three sorta "knew" it had to be a scam so at least they had the common sense to check it out. I'm wondering how many just sent the deposit in to the person claiming to be the "owner".

Here in the south you can sometimes (literally) get away with murder if you claim to be some type of reverend/ minister/man/woman of god/whatever which is exactly what this scammer was claiming.

I report the ads to craigslist, they are pulled, only to show up again a few days later. And the newest ones have no pictures included, just a description.

I hate to say it but I can't monitor craiglist/zillow/hotpads each and every day (and one of the ads that still shows up involves a house I've had rented since September of 2013). I'm coming to the conclusion that while there's a lot of naive and desperate renters out there, there are also a whole bunch of folks looking for "that deal" (who isn't??) and I suppose if they are dumb enough to fork over the money without viewing a place; well, maybe that's just a hard lesson they'll have to learn.

@Patrick L. @Rob K. So I went over there this morning and there's a woman and her boyfriend in the driveway and she's on the phone with....you guessed it: The Scammers! I asked to speak to them and when I asked the guy who he was he said in an African accent that he was the landlord.

Anyway, this woman said that they were asking her to send a deposit, etc.

I actually wound up showing them the place and gave them my card.

I just want to know if I should pull my ad or not.

@Dawn Anastasi can you do that on Postlets....not list the address?

Originally posted by @Joe Butcher :

@Dawn Anastasi can you do that on Postlets....not list the address?

I was actually talking about Craigslist; I haven't used Postlets.

I wonder if it helps to have a sign in the yard with rent amount and your phone number on it. Seems like that would clue in some of the unsuspecting would be victims.

I hate to think of the confrontation that would happen if I pull up in the driveway and find somebody trying to move into my house. It would not be pretty!

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