Spring 2023 marked a new beginning for Fred—buying his first house and finally moving into it. Little did he know that just a few months later his house would be the subject of an elaborate rental scam that’s becoming more common these days.
It all started when Fred got a phone call one afternoon, from a stranger. She was inquiring about the rental that she said was advertised—Fred’s house. The house definitely was not for rent. Perplexed, Fred tried to explain this to the caller, but she was insistent that the house was listed for rent. She said she’d seen it listed on several rental websites.
After some frantic digging online, Fred discovered that his new house was indeed listed for rent on several well-known platforms. He also learned that the popular DIY real estate site he had used when he bought the house was the source of the mystery rental listing.
Then came a second call, from the same persistent woman. She had researched the ownership of the house, and had found Fred’s Facebook account. The plot thickened when she said that she had filled out a rental application on one of the sites and paid the alleged owner a $55 application fee. So her personal information, including date of birth and Social Security number—along with her $55 fee—were now in the hands of the fake owner.
Fred contacted his listing site and informed them of the scam. Within hours, his house was removed from their platform.
This kind of scam is growing. People pose as property owners to get would-be renters’ application fees and personal information. If you believe you’ve been scammed, either as the owner or prospective renter, always alert the rental site and take all possible steps to protect your information.
If you have a question about the law or a complaint in the City of Alameda, contact us at 510-747-4775, or email [email protected]. The Alameda City Attorney’s Prosecution and Public Rights Unit enforces the law and educates the public on issues including tenants’ rights, workers’ rights, and consumer protection. We also provide mediation services in situations where both parties need help working things out.
The names and facts have been changed, but this story is similar to cases the City Attorney’s Office has handled.
Rico Fenix is a Paralegal-Investigator for the Alameda City Attorney’s Office
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