A woman in Aurora claimed that her home was listed for rent without her knowledge or permission, resulting in people showing up at her door and attempting to enter. She claims that some people have paid thousands of dollars to rent her house.
However, the phony listing is part of a larger scheme.
Donna has asked reporters not to use her last name because so many people have inquired about her home. She understands the fascination; she adores her Aurora home and has stated that she has no plans to leave anytime soon.
So it caught her completely off guard when a stranger showed up unannounced, wanting to take a tour.
“And he told me that he was here to see the house, that he wanted to see it because it was for rent, and I said ‘This house is not for rent,'” she recalled. “And he said, ‘Yes it is, I’ve got the paperwork.'”
Donna claimed the man showed her a lease signed by a forged signature from the so-called property owner.
“I was afraid,” she admitted. “‘Where did you see the house?’ I asked. ‘Well, it’s on Zillow,’ he said.”
Donna stated that she searched the real estate website Zillow.com and found her home listed for rent.
“And they took the real estate listing, which shows all of the rooms, and they showed the entire house. They had all of the photos. The same thing that initially drew me to the house, “She stated.
Donna called the cops and hoped that was the end of it. But, she claimed, someone else arrived the next morning.
“And again she’s flashing the papers in front of the door, ‘I’m renting your house I want to see it,'” Donna explained.
This time, the prospective renter was a pregnant woman. She refused to speak on camera, but said she paid the so-called property owner thousands of dollars in advance via Zelle to secure the rental property. She had also signed a lease.
The woman claimed she didn’t realize she’d been duped until she visited the house and met Donna.
“I could tell she was devastated with what happened to her,” Donna said.
Lisa Kuersten discovered the Aurora home for rent on Zillow as well.
“They really had me fooled because they seemed so sincere in everything they were saying,” she explained.
Kuersten said the house was perfect, so she applied on Zillow and soon received a response from the alleged owner.
“And they replied, “Great, fill out this information, and feel free to drive by the location.” We can’t do a walkthrough because there are people living there right now.’ “Kuersten explained.
She said she stopped by and was immediately sold, but she became suspicious when the so-called owner asked her to send her deposit to a property manager via Zelle.
“That raises a red flag. Why are we sending the money to someone with whom we haven’t been communicating?” She stated.
Kuersten discovered Donna after conducting additional research and looking up the home online.
“It was terrifying to realize we were on the verge of being duped. We thought we were doing everything correctly, that we had done our homework “Kuersten explained.
Losses from rental scams are increasing at an alarming rate, according to FBI Special Agent Siobhan Johnson.
“So, about five years ago, we saw around $3 million in losses in Illinois alone. We saw $6.9 million this year “She stated.
The FBI reported $350 million in losses nationwide in the previous year.
“If a homeowner falls victim to one of these scams, they should be extremely worried. What you don’t want is for people to come to your property upset because they lost a lot of money “Johnson stated.
Johnson recommends that homeowners search their own address online on a regular basis to ensure that there are no fake listings. Renters should also exercise caution when wiring money to reserve a property. Wiring money is the same as handing over cash.
Also, do not pay anything until you have seen the property in person.
Donna stated that she recently witnessed another person driving by her house to take photographs. She’s tired of it and just wants it to end.
“Every time the phone rings and they say, ‘are you Donna?’ and I say, ‘yes,’ my concern is they are going to say can we come and see your house, it’s for rent,” she explained. “I was gonna put a sign on the door that says ‘this house is not for rent.'”
According to Zillow, the listing was removed by its team within 72 hours of being posted, and the company actively screens for potential fraud or scams to prevent them from being posted. Users on Zillow can report suspicious listings, which are then investigated by the platform. If a listing is discovered to be fraudulent, it is promptly removed from the site.
Donna stated that she hopes this story serves as a clear warning that she is not leaving and that her home is not for rent.
Full statement from Zillow
“Zillow strives to provide a safe online community on our platform, and we go to great lengths to monitor activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our customer support team monitors activity on the site in a number of different ways, actively screening for possible fraud or scams and preventing them from getting posted. If a listing is found to be fraudulent, it is removed from Zillow as quickly as possible.
“Zillow’s “Beware of scams and other internet fraud” page provides valuable information for internet users on how to avoid fraudulent listings, including looking out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries.” – a Zillow spokesperson
Once you confirmed the correct address, we were able to review the situation. We found that the listing was removed by our team within 72 hours after it was posted.
Also wanted to let you know that all listings on our platform include a “Report a Listing” option for users to flag suspicious or erroneous listings to our support teams, which they then investigate, in addition to their regular screening work.
Again, our Beware of Scams page is a helpful resource that helps users identify potential scams online.
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