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Online home realtor scheme targets homes not listed for sale

Online home realtor scheme targets homes not listed for sale
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 6:24 PM EDT
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GRAYSON, Ky. (WSAZ) - Thousands of people list their homes for sale, using online realtor sites to reach more buyers.

Roberta Lucas waited for a repairman to arrive at her home on Thursday. However, she got an unexpected visitor looking to buy her home, but the only thing the home was not listed the sale.

“A man pulled in the driveway and I thought it was the Windstream technician. Then, I saw him sit there for a while and I opened the door and said, ‘can I help you?’ He then asked is this your address? I went on to say yes. He then said, ‘I came to look at the home its for sale on Zillow,’ ” Lucas said.

The Lucas family home wasn’t for sale. Lucas said someone listed their home for sale on Zillow using pictures from where their home was on the market in 2014.

She believes it was part of a scheme to make money by creating false listings of homes, then cashing in on application fees.

Only some listings on Zillow have application fees.

“There’s such an uptick in crime, and I don’t want to fall victim to that, and in turn, we fell victim to this. Something I would have never expected in my life,” Lucas said.

WSAZ reached out to Zillow about how homeowners can protect themselves from fraudulent listings and received the following response:

“Zillow strives to provide a safe online community on our platform, and we go to great lengths to monitor activity and inform our users of the possibility of scams and how to protect themselves. Our teams use a number of different tools to prevent inappropriate content from publishing, but if a listing is found to be fraudulent after it’s posted, our team takes steps to remove it from our site. We have a “Beware of scams and other internet fraud” page on the site, informing users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and other valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings.”

Lucas also reached out to Zillow, and she said the company is working to take down the listing of her home.

On every listing, there’s a report problem with the listing option. Zillow recommends if you spot a suspicious listing, fill out the form and alert their staff.

Lucas is warning other homeowners to be aware your home could be out there, too.

“Do your own research,” Lucas said. “Be on top of it because if you’re not whatever these people want to do could potentially ruin your life.

Lucas said she feels the scheme is an invasion of privacy.

In this circumstance, Lucas was told by the police there was no crime committed. If someone approached the house, Lucas was told to call 911 and report the issue.

Lucas said Zillow told her the person was banned from posting future listings on their site.

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