Be on the watch out
We found out someone was running a scam on one of our properties this week, and I wanted to tell you about it.
The house where the scam occurred was a nice, two-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom mobile home in a country setting in Gordon County. It was being offered for rent, and it is one of our most affordable units.
Now, we use a service called Rently to list our properties. They have a pretty cool setup. Not only do they have a platform to list properties, but they also have a self-showing option that’s built into their system. The way it works is the landlord rents one of Rently’s lockboxes which can only be accessed by people using the Rently app. Rently provides a one-time code, which expires after 30 minutes, for people who qualify for the house.
In order to qualify for the house, applicants have to meet minimum criteria, which we set up. Rently screens them based on income, job stability and few other things, and if they don’t meet our criteria, our house doesn’t even show up in their search for homes. This cuts down on poorly qualifying applicants and gets us a smaller, but better, application pool.
The other side of it is that the applicants get to look at the houses on their own time and schedule. Because it is a self-show, we don’t have to run out to the property every time someone wants to look at the house. Rently keeps a credit card and driver license on file for anyone that uses their app, and they timestamp and date anyone that views the property.
These records came into play Monday morning when we got a call from someone telling us that they were in contact with a man who had let them see the inside of our house from Craigslist. This is alarming because we don’t use Craigslist to advertise.
They told me the man pointed them to Rently, had got them in the house and then wanted them to Zelle money to him after signing the lease he had emailed them. And since this was all going down without any kind of application process, the caller got suspicious and called the number on the Rently ad, which was our number.
I asked if they could send me the Craigslist ad, and they did.
Moments later though, we got a call from our next self-showing saying the key was missing. We just assumed muscle memory took over and the previous person had accidently put it in their pocket when they left. So, we went to the Rently records and got the info for the previous person who viewed the home. Once we got them, things got hairy.
They told us they had found our house on Facebook Marketplace (once again, we don’t market there) and had sent $500 to a fellow as earnest money to rent the house after going through the process mentioned above. He told them that they had the place and could take the key out of our lock box.
We let them know quickly that whoever they were talking to was not the owner, that they needed to get in contact with the police and that they needed to return our key ASAP!
After we hung up with them, I went to the Craigslist ad and called the number provided. A man calling himself Jesse picked up the phone. He had a heavy accent, and we wound up resorting to text messaging to communicate. There, he told me “his” house was still for rent and if I wanted to see “his” house, to go out to the property and he would tell me how to use “his” self-showing system to get in.
Even though my blood was boiling, I needed to play along for a couple of reasons. First, I needed to know if he could get people into my house. Next, I needed to know if he had hacked Rently. And finally, I wanted to see if I could get him to meet me in person so we could take him down.
I got out to the house, and he sent me a text that allowed me to sign up for Rently. Then he sent me the link to our property listing where I could schedule a viewing. (Remember people can’t see my property unless they prequalify — unless they have the direct link to listing.) This was all done via text. And finally, he wanted me to send him my credentials so he could send me a lease and I could send him some money.
To make a long story short, I couldn’t get him to meet in person. We got in contact with Rently. They had not been hacked and were aware of the scam. We had to go in and watermark all our pictures and then put info in the ad making people aware of the scam. We got the sheriff’s office involved and they are doing what they can to track him down. We changed locks and we put a sign up at the property letting people know of the scam and to call us directly. And finally, I texted “Jesse” and let him know we were on to him and that the police were too.
So far, we haven’t had any more issues.
But crooks are out there. So be on the watch out for this the next time you put a property up for rent.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.