Using Google Alerts to Stop Rental Scams
Despite repeated warnings from authorities and increased media coverage about rental scams and the scraping of on-line real estate listings, many consumers continue to fall victim. Because it’s free, CraigsList is perhaps the most common on-line platform used to perpetrate these scams. However, there are easy to implement techniques Arizona REALTORS® can use to protect themselves and their listings. This article will examine one of those techniques – the use of Google alerts.
While rental scams come in many forms, the most common version involves a scenario in which the perpetrator takes legitimate listing information and posts it on websites such as CraigsList. The listing information, including photos and a property description, is used by the pretend owner to list the property for rent. Rather than identify the phone number of the listing agent, the scam artist lists their own phone number and instructs prospective tenants to contact them directly. Ultimately, the perpetrator of the scam collects a deposit from unsuspecting would-be tenants who learn too late that their money has been taken by someone with no connection to the property. In some extreme cases, the individual pretending to be the owner breaks into an abandoned home, sometimes even changing the locks, and proceeds to show the home to interested tenants.
An effective tool to stop your listings from becoming the subject of a rental scam is to set up a Google alert for every property you have listed for sale. By way of this alert, you can be quickly notified if your listing has been added to a website without your permission. It’s also a good way to know where your listings are legitimately appearing on the internet.
To utilize Google alert, the first step is to log onto www.google.com/alerts. Once on the webpage, you simply type into the search box the address of the property you want to monitor. Next, click on the “show options” tab and the following dropdown box will appear:
Use this box to first choose how often you wish to receive search results regarding the property you identified: (1) as it happens; (2) at most once a day; or (3) at most once a week. After selecting your preferred language and identifying your region as the United States, it is best to identify that you wish to receive “all results,” as opposed to “only the best results.”
Finally, you may want to ensure that Google alerts focus on a specific website, such as CraigsList. To do this, you will need to add your desired search directive immediately following the property address, separated by a colon punctuation mark. For example, if the property is located in Phoenix, following the address, you will type in “phoenix.craigslist.org.” Your search box will therefore look as follows:
Note that there are no spaces in the search directive following the property address. Finally, you will receive an email from Google asking you to confirm or cancel your request. Once you confirm the request, you will begin receiving your alerts.
There are many legitimate rental ads on CraigsList and the company does its best to warn people about rental scams. Nonetheless, prospective tenants continue to fall prey. It is for this reason that REALTORS® should exercise diligence in monitoring where and why their listings appear on the internet.
Tucson REALTOR® Asked for REO Kickback
Armando Granillo, a former Fannie Mae employee, was indicted in March 2013, by a grand jury on allegations of taking kick-backs related to his role as a Real Estate Owned Foreclosure Specialist. Granillo’s position at the Irvine, California. Fannie Mae office was to review applications submitted by real estate brokers who wanted to list Fannie Mae foreclosure properties. In that capacity, Granillo had the authority to approve sale offers presented by the brokers.
In this particular case, Granillo asked a broker from Tucson to pay a 20 percent kickback on commission received for listings, at which point the broker alerted federal law enforcement officials. The broker then began assisting law enforcement in the investigation. In a recorded meeting between Granillo and the broker, Granillo stated the arrangement was a “natural part of business.” In the same meeting, Granillo made arrangements to receive an $11,200 payment from the broker.
If convicted, Granillo’s charges could result in a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
Note: An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The entire article may be reviewed at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2013/044.html
Scams & Frauds
To view the contents of this page, you must be authenticated and have the required access level.
Mortgage Lawsuit Scam Hits Arizona
Judy Lowe, Commissioner, Arizona Department of Real Estate Advisory–
During these challenging times, it is critical that all parties involved in the real estate industry are kept well informed as to any illegal misbehavior and/or activity. In a spirit of maintaining an open dialog with our licensees, the real estate industry and consumers, I am providing you with the warning issued on Monday, August 22, 2011 by the Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
AG HORNE WARNS HOMEOWNERS: MORTGAGE LAWSUIT SCAM HITS ARIZONA–
PHOENIX (Monday, August 22, 2011) — Attorney General Tom Horne today issued a warning to consumers to be wary of any notices or advertisements that claim to offer homeowners facing foreclosure “complete forgiveness of the loan” or other monetary relief if they join a class-action lawsuit. Such ploys are likely a pretext to collect illegal up-front fees for foreclosure assistance.
In class action litigation, consumers generally do not have to pay to join, and most reputable firms will not charge a fee for attorneys to review your case or to determine if you are eligible to join a lawsuit.
“The mortgage crisis is only made worse by predators who take advantage of consumers who are already facing the loss of their home,” Horne said. “State and federal law ban almost all types of up-front fees for foreclosure assistance. I am committed to prosecuting anyone who engages in this type of consumer fraud, and it is just as important that consumers be vigilant against these types of scams.”
The California Attorney General recently filed a lawsuit against California lawyer Philip Kramer, the Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow, plus 19 other lawyer and non-lawyer individuals and companies, for deceptively marketing class action or “mass joinder” lawsuits. The defendants in that case are believed to have taken over $7 million in fees from homeowners in 17 states – including Arizona – after sending out hundreds of thousands of flyers advertising the program. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants advertised nationwide settlements against lenders that did not exist and that many servicers were not provided by lawyers or legal staff.
Notices may be mailed to homeowners or posted on their doors. Typically, the business claims that the fee they are charging is for a forensic audit of your loan documents to see if you are eligible to join the class action litigation. However, the Federal Trade Commission’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule (“MARS Rule”) contains a broad ban on requesting or collecting up-front fees for almost all types of mortgage assistance, including forensic audits related to foreclosure relief. Arizona’s foreclosure consultant statute also prohibits companies from collecting an up-front fee for assisting homeowners in foreclosure.
Foreclosure rescue companies may promise to refund your fee if you are not eligible to join the litigation. However, the Office’s experience with guaranteed refunds indicates that they are very difficult to obtain, or the company may disappear before the refund is paid. If you are facing foreclosure, refuse to pay up-front fees and instead contact the Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Helpline at (877) 448-1211 for free assistance provided by HUD approved housing counseling agencies.
If you feel you’ve been a victim of a class joinder scam or any other type of consumer fraud, please contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Consumer Information & Complaints Unit at (602) 542-5763 / (520) 628-6504 / (800) 352-8431. You can also file a consumer complaint online at:www.azag.gov/consumer/complaintform.html
ATTENTION SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS!
- 14 DAY NOTICE- A.R.S.§ 32-2135
As you have been advised in the latest Bulletin (Volume 2011-Issue 2), effective September 1, 2011, all schools will be required to submit their “14 Day Notice” online through the ADRE Online Education System at https://services.azre.gov/OES/Login.aspx. By this effective date, the online system will have an option to “opt out” so that the course information will not appear on the ADRE public database.
- TRAINING SEMINAR OR INSTRUCTOR DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP (IDW) – A.R.S. § 32-2135
You may now submit applications for the required Seminar or Instructor Development Workshop course emphasizing instruction methods, techniques and skills that will be required of instructor effective January 1, 2012 (S.B. 1292). Click HERE to view the NEW training course application.
- BROKER CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE VERIFICATION PROCESS
Please make sure candidates are notified that all Broker Experience Verification (LI-226) applications are required to have a broker experience verification form from each Designated Broker to verify the cumulative time that is necessary to qualify for 3 out of the past 5 years of activefull-time licensure. Out-of-State candidates are still required to submit the certified license history.
Broker candidates may submit this information with their application, instead of obtaining preapproval and valid through date from ADRE. However, ADRE will not issue an Arizona Real Estate Broker License if the qualifications and documentation requirements have not been met at time of application.