Real estate agents are receiving Zillow-branded emails from a scammer hawking fake leads. At least one real estate agent has been tricked into submitting credit card information for the fake leads.
Zillow Group said in a statement that it recently warned agents through email and social media about the con and is “actively working with law enforcement to fight scams and spam like this.”
A message sent Wednesday to Realtor Kim Rockburn from an email address with the domain zillow.pro congratulated Rockburn on receiving “two new premium real-estate leads from ZillowAds.”
The email featured Zillow’s logo and included details on the fake leads along with phony messages from them. It told Rockburn: “Note: You have to unlock these premium leads in order to see complete contact details.”
The bottom of the email featured an orange button with the come-on: “UNLOCK THESE PREMIUM LEADS FOR $5.00.”
Clicking the button took Rockburn to a web page with Zillow branding and a URL that includes “www.zillow.com” but uses the domain “.info” (not “.com”). As prompted, Rockburn submitted her credit card information.
“To me, it looked very legit,” said Rockburn, an Oviedo, Florida-based agent at Keller Williams Advantage Realty. “Why would I suspect that this would have been fraud when in reality that would have been a good marketing tool for [Zillow]?”
After Rockburn didn’t receive the promised leads, she contacted Zillow Group through its website, notifying the listing portal that she hadn’t received the leads despite paying $5.
In response, a Zillow Group “Agent Care Consultant” told Rockburn not to click links in the email she had received or provide her personal information.
“These are scam emails and are not sent by Zillow,” the representative said. “Unfortunately, these emails are being sent directly to your email address, and are not going through any of the Zillow systems, so my team and I cannot block these emails from going to you in the future.”
The representative advised Rockburn to mark the email as spam.
“If you have already shared your personal information, we strongly recommend you to change your emails and passwords,” she added. “Also, please report this to your credit card companies as your credit card information may have been compromised.”
The representative told Rockburn to remember that “Zillow will never send you a lead and ask you to pay to unlock it” and noted that the listing portal’s “legal and technical teams are aware and investigating possible solutions.”
Rockburn doesn’t advertise with Zillow, so she was tempted to test out leads from the listing portal to see if she should start. She said she took the bait because of the convincing presentation and low fee.
Rockburn, who has collected 20 reviews on her Zillow profile, said she never received an alert from Zillow Group about the scam. She said she thinks the company should do more to raise awareness of it.
Zillow Group told Inman that it has taken steps to that end.
“In addition to providing detailed information on Zillow.com about email scams and how to recognize them, we recently reached out via email and have been active on social media to agents to warn them of this specific scam,” the company said in a statement.
Asked when Zillow Group learned of the scam and how many agents have contacted the company about it, the company said:
“Unfortunately, fraudsters often use trusted brands to try and scam consumers and professionals,” the company’s statement also read. “This is an example of that — a criminal who is illegally using Zillow’s trademark to try and scam agents. Zillow Group never asks agents to provide credit card information through an email, and we do not accept any payments through PayPal.”
It added that Zillow Group is “actively working with law enforcement to fight scams and spam like this.”
An NAR spokesman said he was looking into whether members have reported the scam, but in the meantime, provided guidelines for guarding against “phishing email scams.” They include:
- Never trusting contact information in unverified emails
- Using encrypted email when sending sensitive information
- Never clicking links in emails that look “even slightly suspicious”
- Regularly cleaning out your email account
Commenting on a Facebook post by Rockburn about the scam, another agent said that she had received the same email twice.
Zillow.com warns users to “always be wary of giving personal information, financial information, or payments of any kind to people you don’t know personally.”
Its “Red Flags for Scams” list warns of cons involving “individuals claiming an affiliation with Zillow.” But it doesn’t explicitly mention scams related to fake leads, raising the possibility that the scam targeting Rockburn may be relatively new.
Zillow Group has struggled for years to combat other types of scams. Under one common scheme, fraudsters post fake listings and then request security deposits to coax prospective renters into sending cash.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Zillow Group.