Scam of the day – February 15, 2017 – FTC gets court order halting phony rental property scam and free credit reporting scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has obtained a temporary restraining order against Credit Bureau Center LLC, Michael Brown, Danny Pierce and Andrew Lloyd as a part of its legal action against them on charges that they operated scams involving phony rental property advertisements and offered “free” credit reports for which they charged monthly amounts to their victims’ credit cards.

According to the FTC, the scammers placed Craigslist advertisements for rental properties they were not authorized to represent and in some circumstances even placed advertisements for properties that did not even exist.  When people responded to the ads, the victims were told that before they could see the properties they had to get a free credit report from the defendants’ websites’ myscore.com, creditupdates.com and freecreditnation.com in order to qualify to be considered for renting the properties.  The “free” credit reports, however, were far from free because the fine print in the agreement to obtain the “free” credit report required the victim to enroll in a credit monitoring service with a continuing monthly charge of $29.94.  According to the FTC, the victims never were shown properties even after getting the required credit report and the scammers ignored all communications from their victims after the victims signed up for the credit monitoring service.

TIPS

Advertisements for rental units and vacation rentals that are not owned by the scammers placing the advertisements is a common scam.  It is easy for scammers to get photos and other information about rental units and vacation rentals from legitimate websites and post them to lure victims into sending money to the scammers as a deposit.

A good way to protect yourself from this type of scam is to do a Google or other search engine search with the address of the property to see where it may turn up and who is listed as the owner.  Another good source of information is to go online to the Tax Assessor for the city or town where the property is located and confirm that the name of the property owner matches the name of the person attempting to rent you the property.

In regard to “free” credit reports, you should never have to give a credit card number for a free service although often scammers require this.  You should also carefully read any contract you make.  There rarely is anything fine in fine print.  The victims of this particular scam would have seen that they were signing up for a recurring charge if they carefully read their contract.

Finally, carefully monitor your credit card statements and bank accounts often to discover fraudulent charges as soon as possible.

Scam of the day – July 29, 2016 – Summer vacation home rental scam

We are now well into the summer vacation season, although my wife is a firm believer that the summer is just about over on July 4th.  However, many of the rest of you who still believe there is time left in the summer may be considering renting a home in a vacation spot.  Renting a home in a vacation destination, often the mountains or the ocean, is something that many people do.  There are many excellent websites  such as VRBO and Homeaway that offer wonderful vacation homes.  Many people will also go to Craigslist and other similar sites.  These websites can be very easy and efficient ways to locate a great vacation home.   Unfortunately, they are also a great way for scam artists to steal money from unwary people looking for a vacation home.  The scam usually starts with a listing that looks quite legitimate and there is a good reason for that.  The listing is often a real on line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information.  The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential renters.  The potential renters are sometimes told that the owner is out of the country and that there are many people interested in the property so if the tenant wants to be considered for renting it, the tenant has to wire money to the landlord somewhere outside of the country.  As I have warned you many times, wiring money is a scammer’s first choice because it is all but impossible to retrieve once you have found out that you have been scammed.  Too often, unwary potential tenants wire the money and never hear anything further from the scam landlord.  And as for the money, it is gone forever.

TIPS

There are a number of red flags to look for in vacation home rental scams.  First, as always, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true.  Also be wary of landlords who are out of the country.  Never send your payment by a wire transfer or a cashier’s check.  Use a credit card, PayPal or any other payment system with which you can retrieve your funds if the transaction is fraudulent.  It is usually best to deal with websites that specialize in vacation homes, but you must remember that they cannot possibly monitor every listing to ensure that it is legitimate.  A great and easy way to determine if the listing is a scam is to check out who really is the owner by going on line to the tax assessor’s office of the city or town where the property is located and look up who the real owner is.  If it doesn’t match the name of the person attempting to rent you the home, you should not go through with the rental.  Also Google the name of the owner with the word “scam” next to his or her name and see if anything comes up to make you concerned.