Beware of Latest Real Estate Rental Scam in Livermore, and the East Bay Area

Renters, Landlords with Vacant Properties & Sellers with Homes on the Market, Beware of Latest Real Estate Rental Scam in Livermore, the Tri-Valley, East Bay Area, Online, and on Craigslist

There is a real estate scam that is taking place in the Bay Area that I have personally witnessed. Long story short, the Bay Area Real Estate Rental Scammers are renting-out properties that they do not own! There are variations of the three scenarios below. They go something like this:

1) A scammer locates a vacant property and begins marketing it for rent as if they own it; sometimes the window covering have been left up so people can actually see inside. Sometimes the scammer says that they live out of the area or out of the country, has the tenants answer a few questions via email, and agrees to rent the property to someone and send them the keys once the prospective tenant sends them the deposit funds and sometimes first month’s rent; money is sent. Of course, when the people send the money, they do not receive the keys. They same property is supposedly “rented” to several people who send in money and do not receive keys.

2) The scammer locates a vacant property that is not for sale and changes the locks on it and shows the home as if he is the owner. He then writes up a bogus rental agreement, collects the money and gives the tenants the keys to the property; sometimes they collect rent for a while, but usually they disappear after the keys are given. The “tenants “ move in and later either the actual homeowner or the bank, if the property has been foreclosed on, discovers that these “tenants” are living in the property and have to deal with getting them out.

3) A similar scenario is that the home is actually listed for sale or rent (it may or may not be vacant) and the Bay Area Real Estate Scammer snags the photos, property descriptions and such from the online listing sites and advertises the property online as if they own it and tells people that the current tenants are not being cooperative for showings, so they will have to rely on the marketing photos if they want to rent the property. Sometimes the person is local and sometimes not, and the rest of the story goes like scenarios 1 & 2 above.

I have seen both scenarios #1 and #3 personally. I saw and see #1 on quite often. Scenario #3 happened with one of my listings in Dublin. The prospective tenants actually knocked on the door of the property with the Craigslist posting in hand and asked the homeowners/sellers, whom they thought were the uncooperative tenants, if they could see the inside of the townhouse style condo since they could not see through the windows. The sellers got a copy of the marketing info the people got from Craigslist and emailed it to me. We flagged the posting on Craigslist and researched to see what kind of action could be taken. Sellers reported it to the Federal Trade Commission, but nothing came of it.
The craigslist ads usually have an anonymous email address, so unless Craigslist gets involved, there is no way to track who posted the ad.

If you own a vacant property, make you or someone you know goes into the property on a regular basis and make sure that the locks have not been changed , no one has moved in, that nothing is out of place, and there are not any signs that someone has been in the property or walking around it. You should notify the neighbors of the vacant property regarding whether or not there should be people coming or going, so they can help you keep an eye out. Keeping mail from being delivered there, newspapers out of the driveway, marketing flyers off the front door and porch, the blinds shut, and the gates locked help to keep people who should not be on your property away.

If you are looking to rent a property, make sure that the person trying to rent it to you actually owns the property! You can find out by giving the name of the “owner” and the property address to me or a real estate agent you know and we can quickly pull the county records for you and let you know if you are actually dealing with the owner of the property or not.

If you would like a free list of all the homes for lease that are listed with agents, just email me your criteria (for ex. cities, min bedroom and baths, max rent per month, if you have any pets, and any other requirements you have) and I will set up a free Client Portal for you on my site and will send you notifications of homes listed for rent by agents on the MLS and any new ones that come on the market. You can also visit my website and search for rental properties without setting up a Client Portal for free and without obligation. You will need to click on the Homes for Sale link , enter your search criteria and then select “lease” as property type. You can come back as often as you like to search homes or if you want to be sent automatic updates of homes that meet your criteria, you will need to quickly set-up a free Client Portal on my site, input your search there and select automatic notifications.
I hope this information allows you to avoid being scammed in Livermore, the Tri-Valley, and the East Bay Area!