There are an increasing number of online rental websites that give your rental property more exposure. The downside is the increased rental fraud that is occurring across the nation. On May 8, 2013, Climb leasing agents Darcy Robinson and Elizabeth Kim attended a webinar by Trulia’s Pierre Calzadilla on how real estate agents can prevent their listings from being targeted for rental fraud.
Scammers target desperate renters, who are more likely to believe a price that’s too good to be true. San Francisco’s high rents and extremely competitive market mean that a higher percentage of renters than ever are unable to find properties in their price range. And scammers are becoming ever more resourceful; recently they’ve begun impersonating legitimate agents, using a fake email address with a real agent’s name on it. This puts agents’ reputations at risk.
Real estate agents already spend a lot of time having fraudulent ads removed, but how can you keep your listings from being targeted for fraud in the first place?
- If you are renting or selling a vacant property, put a sign inside the house (i.e. in the living room window). Scammers will steal exterior signs so that people sent to the house won’t know whom the legitimate listing agent is.
- Set up a Google alert for the address of your property. This will give you a daily update of everywhere your property has been posted, so if you see it on a site you haven’t authorized, you can immediately have it taken down.
- Conceal the address of your property in the advertising. Scammers are less likely to go to the trouble of making up a fake address to go with the photos and description they’ve stolen from your listing. However, make sure that the sites you’re advertising on have the real address of your listing in their files, as they’ll keep anyone else from posting a duplicate listing there.
- Set up a secure feed to sites like Trulia and Zillow. Real estate websites trust feeds from brokers more than they do feeds that come from other sites, which means that your listing will be less likely to be falsely marked as a scam (a technique scammers use so that they won’t have competition).
- Protect your photos. The more photos you put on a listing, the more people trust it to be legitimate. Watermark them! Watermarks can be as short as your company name or as long as “This property is exclusively for rent by Jane Smith, call 555.1234.” Make sure that your watermark is near the middle of the photo, so that scammers can’t just crop off the top or bottom to remove your watermark. The more work scammers have to do to steal your listing’s information, the less likely they are to target you. (Watermarks are not accepted on all MLSs, so this might not be an option for you.)
- In the description of your property, you can tell applicants not to send money before they’ve seen the property. That will make you look more trustworthy, since asking for money is usually the first thing a scammer does. If an apartment seeker finds both your ad and the scammer’s version, it’ll be easier for them to tell whose is real.
- Report scammers’ phone numbers to websites that collect them or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Scammers often use the same phone numbers over and over, so reporting a number as belonging to a scammer will help investigators build a case against them.
- Report/flag ads as fake. Sites like Trulia and Zillow are constantly working to prevent fraud, so it’s important that you let them know which ads need taken down.
Climb Real Estate’s leasing agents can help you get the exposure you need for your rental property while minimizing your risk. We utilize professional marketing and photography services that are key to minimizing internet fraud. In addition, our extensive renter screening and application process protects property owners. Contact us today for more information at email@example.com or 415.431.8888.
Climb Real Estate provides this information to the public and our clients and does not guarantee its accuracy. Climb Real Estate does not necessarily represent the seller nor the marketing company in any way. For buyer representation, contact Climb or learn how to buy new developments.