Online rental scam steals real estate listings and potentially money

Local News

Scammers are stealing real estate listings from agents and using them as their own, which is hurting those looking for a new home in the Quad Cities.

The posts usually feature stolen photos and information, which makes the listing seem legitimate. Some posts even ask for security deposits, which ultimately results in money being stolen from hopeful tenants.

Le Claire resident Hope Taylor sent an email about a rental listing from the website Craigslist with hopes of scheduling a showing for a home in Bettendorf. She was met with excuses from the potential landlord about being unavailable to meet in person or talk on the phone. She was also encouraged to stop by the home without an agent and to disregard the for sale signs in the front yard.

“It did just not sound right,” Taylor said.

Taylor decided to search for answers on her own and discovered that the listing was false.

“I looked up the owner, the address. I saw it on estate sites for sale. The owner was actually deceased as of March 2020,” Taylor said.

The scammer did use the late owner’s name to end the email they sent to Taylor.

Lucky Lang II is a realtor at Mel Foster Company in Davenport. He says listings are stolen from real estate agents frequently, especially vacant properties.

He says scammers make excuses to not meet face to face.

“If you can’t meet somebody in person, whether it’s the owner, the realtor or the property manager, that’s usually a big [red] flag,” Lang said.

Lang said it is crucial to do research on a listing if you are unsure.

“Try to contact the owner themselves, try to contact the property manager if there is one,” Lang said.

If you are targeted by a rental scam, report the false listing to the website you found it on and contact local police.

For tips on how to spot and report a rental scam, click the link here.

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