Common Rental and Real Estate Scams

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation remind individuals to be cautious when using the Internet to advertise rental properties and real estate. The IC3 continues to receive numerous complaints from individuals who have fallen victim to scams involving rentals of apartments and houses, as well as online real estate postings. Rental scams occur when the victim has property advertised and is contacted by an interested party. Once the rental price is agreed upon, the scammer sends a check for the deposit. The check covers housing expenses and is either written in excess of the amount required, with the scammer asking for the remainder to be remitted back, or for the correct amount, but the scammer backs out of the rental agreement and asks for a refund.

Because banks do not usually place a hold on the funds, the victim has immediate access to them and believes the check has cleared. In the end, the check is found to be counterfeit and the victim is held responsible by the bank for all losses.

A second common scam involves real estate that is posted via classified websites. The scammer duplicates postings from legitimate real estate sites, alters them, and reposts them. Often, the scammers use the broker’s real name to create a fake e-mail address, which gives the fraud more legitimacy. When the victim sends an e-mail through the website inquiring about the home, they receive a response from someone claiming to be the owner.

The “owner” typically says he and his wife are doing missionary work in a foreign country and need someone to rent their home while they are away. If the victim is interested, he or she is asked to send money to the “owner” in the foreign country. These funds go directly to the scammer, and the would-be renter loses his or her money.

Ways consumers can protect themselves from these schemes include:

 

  •  Do not accept overpayment for rental properties. If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.
  •  Do not wire funds to people you do not know.
  •  Verify potential renters’ income.
  • Request renters’ personal references and follow up with those individuals.
  • Check with your county recorder to learn who owns the property you’re seeking to rent.
  •  Call the property manager or association, if applicable, and ask about the landlord.
  • Ask the landlord for a rental application. It’s a red flag if one is not available; most managed properties require an application.
  •  Find out how much of a security deposit may be requested in your state. Scammers will often ask for extra money in the form of a deposit.

The following requests can be indicators of fraudulent activity: 

  • The would-be tenant wants to rent or purchase the property sight unseen.
  •  The potential tenant says he or she is out of the country and he or she would like to send you a cashier’s check.
  • The payment is for more than the agreed upon amount.
  • There’s urgency to the entire process. For example, the tenant says he or she is arriving in the country next week and needs to establish residency right away.

If you have been a victim of Internet crime, please file a complaint at http://www.IC3.gov.

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Internet Extortion

What is Internet Extortion?

Internet extortion involves hacking into and controlling various industry databases, promising to release control back to the company if funds are received, or the subjects are given web administrator jobs. Similarly, the subject will threaten to compromise information about consumers in the industry database unless funds are received.

In the CBS The Good Wife. a hacker takes control and threatens to delete ALL of Florrick/Agos/Lockhart’s files, sending the firm into panic mode when he demands a ransom. This is an another form of Internet Extortion. I will be talking more about “Ransomware” in another posting.

INTERNET EXTORTION

  •  Security needs to be multi-layered so that numerous obstacles will be in the way of the intruder.
  •  Ensure security is installed at every possible entry point.
  •  Identify all machines connected to the Internet and assess the defense that’s engaged.
  •  Identify whether your servers are utilizing any ports that have been known to represent insecurities.
  •  Ensure you are utilizing the most up-to-date patches for your software.
Types of Internet Extortions:

 

Threats of Action 

Also common are “threats of action” which is essentially corporate online blackmail. The blackmailer has obtained sensitive information about your business, which could range from a client list to a proprietary product, and is demanding payment to keep it secret. The problem here, of course, is that the blackmailer can keep demanding payment forever, especially since the information is likely digital. This is less common than extortion, but if you’re in a business where you need to keep a trade secret or with intense competition, you may be exposed to this.

Threat of Defamation 

Threat of defamation is precisely what it sounds like. A demand for money or other favors, or else the blackmailer will smear your reputation with false statements. For example, a business might receive several bad reviews at once on major review sites. While less common than the above two types of online extortion, it can still happen and should be treated seriously.

Coercion 

Coercion is where the threat of exposing this information is used to make you engage in an illegal activity. Coercion is the rarest form of Internet blackmail, and in fact, the rarest form of blackmail in general, but you may receive coercion threats via the Internet.

If you think you are a victim of an Internet Extortion, Contact the FBI  Internet Crime Complaint center

When Filing a Complaint with the IC3

The IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the actual victim or from a third party to the complainant. We can best process your complaint if we receive accurate and complete information from you. Therefore, we request that you provide the following information

when filing a complaint: Please include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your mailing address
  • Your telephone number
  • The name, address, telephone number, and Web address, if available, of the individual or organization you believe defrauded you.
  • Specific details on how, why, and when you believe you were defrauded.
  •  Any other relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint.

PONZI/PYRAMID SCAMS

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator.Ponzi or pyramid schemes are investment scams in which investors are promised abnormally high profits on their investments. No investment is actually made. Early investors are paid returns with the investment money received from the later investors. The system usually collapses. The later investors do not receive dividends and lose their initial investment

PONZI/PYRAMID

  •  If the “opportunity” appears too good to be true, it probably is.
  •  Beware of promises to make fast profits.
  •  Exercise diligence in selecting investments.
  • Be vigilant in researching with whom you choose to invest.
  • Make sure you fully understand the investment prior to investing.
  • Be wary when you are required to bring in subsequent investors.
  • Independently verify the legitimacy of any investment.
  • Beware of references given by the promoter.
If you think you are a victim of a PONZI/PYRAMID SCAM , Contact the FBI  Internet Crime Complaint center

When Filing a Complaint with the IC3

The IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the actual victim or from a third party to the complainant. We can best process your complaint if we receive accurate and complete information from you. Therefore, we request that you provide the following information

when filing a complaint: Please include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your mailing address
  • Your telephone number
  • The name, address, telephone number, and Web address, if available, of the individual or organization you believe defrauded you.
  • Specific details on how, why, and when you believe you were defrauded.
  •  Any other relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint.

CREDIT CARD FRAUD

Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit/debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property.

  •  Ensure a site is secure and reputable before providing your credit card number online.
  •  Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure. If purchasing merchandise, ensure it is from a reputable source.
  •  Promptly reconcile credit card statements to avoid unauthorized charges.
  • Do your research to ensure legitimacy of the individual or company.
  •  Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited emails.
If you think you are a victim of a credit/debit care fraud. Contact the FBI  Internet Crime Complaint center

When Filing a Complaint with the IC3

The IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the actual victim or from a third party to the complainant. We can best process your complaint if we receive accurate and complete information from you. Therefore, we request that you provide the following information

when filing a complaint: Please include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your mailing address
  • Your telephone number
  • The name, address, telephone number, and Web address, if available, of the individual or organization you believe defrauded you.
  • Specific details on how, why, and when you believe you were defrauded.
  •  Any other relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint.