Lynchburg Family Victims of Online Rental Listing Scam - abc27 WHTM

Lynchburg Family Victims of Online Rental Listing Scam


Lynchburg, VA - A Lynchburg family has found themselves in middle of an online rental listing scam.

When Heather Carpenter's home went on the market last week, her realtor was immediately flooded with calls. The calls were in response to fake posts listing the house for rent.

Carpenter was aware of the many online rental listing scams around, but she never thought she would fall victim to not one but two scams listing her home for rent.

Carpenter's Lynchburg home was on the market for two days and almost instantly generated calls to her realtor.

"I was surprised at how many people were calling about it," Carpenter said.

They were responding to online rental listings advertising her four bedroom house for just $600 a month, but Carpenter's house was not for rent.

Lucky for them, the interested callers accidentally came across the realtor's number after searching for more information online.

"I received another phone call from another individual who actually was getting ready to wire money to rent this home, and he wanted to know if this ad was legit and I said 'no',"said Keller Williams Realtor Betsy Ferguson.

Rental listing scams have become more common in recent years.

"I was really upset, I was angry and freaked out really," Ferguson said.

The scammers copy information and pictures from actual listings and create a fake post marking the house for rent. They put it on user input sites like Zillow or Hotpad.

ABC 13 tried calling the numbers posted on the ads for Carpenter's home and got their voice mail.

When Realtor Betsy Ferguson called one of the numbers she got through to the scammer who went by 'Mr.Charles'

"I very nicely asked him to remove it and I also told him I was going to report it and he immediately hung up," said Ferguson.

In most cases the scammer will ask for a money order for rent or a deposit up front.

"They start asking for your phone number and your information and as they feel like they are getting you to trust them comes the ‘Hey, we need your bank account'," Ferguson added.

Ferguson recommends going through local reputable rental agencies.

"Zillow, Hotpad and Trillia anyone just like this gentleman did can come in take off any house that is on sale online and solicit it for rent," Ferguson said.

Ferguson warns people to be suspicious if the renter is not asking for an application fee or running a background check. She also mentions that a high application fee or deposit is another red flag.


UPDATE - This is a statement from Zillow:

Zillow goes to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. this listing was removed and the user who posted it was blocked from posting additional listings. Here is more information about how Zillow prevents, polices and detects rental scams:


  • After entering a rental listing on Zillow, the user must submit a phone number and click on "call my phone". The user will then receive a call or text with a 4-digit verification code. They must then enter the verification code to post the listing.
  • Our customer support team routinely polices activity on the sites in a number of different ways and if a rental listing is found to be fraudulent, it is immediately removed from Zillow. Additionally, any user who posts a fraudulent listing is blocked from posting additional listings, if possible.
  • Every rental listing on Zillow has a "Beware of Rental Scams" message at the top of the page, telling users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and directing them to our fraud and scams page, which provides valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings. http://www.zillow.com/wikipages/Beware-of-Scams-and-Other-Internet-Fraud/
  • Anytime a user contacts a property manager about a listing, they see a message to beware of fraudulent listings.
  • Every contact email sent to Zillow community members with a Zillow profile includes the following warning, and link to our Internet Fraud and Scam FAQ page: Beware of scams: Zillow does not review or screen messages sent to your profile. Please use caution in replying to people you don't know personally. Learn more about potential e-mail scams.

·         In all of our site communications, we encourage anyone who comes across any suspicious use of the Zillow name or site activity to report it to fraud@zillow.com

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