Knowing real estate agents will pay good money for new customers, fraudsters frequently send out fake leads to make a quick buck.
The latest scam, which Keller Williams Realtor Scott McAllister discovered circulating in his professional circles, places the Zillow Group logo atop a lead with info about a buyer’s location, employment and the type of home they want. The post, seen on Facebook and in emails and texts, asks for a fee of around $10 to gain access to a potential homebuyer’s email and phone number.
The phone numbers, no surprise, often turn out to be fake or random.
“It looked really legit because I do pay Zillow and realtor.com for leads,” McAllister told Inman. It was only the request to transfer money through PayPal rather than a credit card that tipped him off to a potential scam.
After calling Zillow Group to confirm the inauthenticity of these leads, McAllister wrote a Facebook post warning agents not to fall for such scams.
Because the fake leads copy the format of large real estate companies like Zillow and realtor.com, they can be difficult to distinguish from the real thing.
“People are just moving so fast,” McAllister said. “You have to respond to leads, even legitimate leads, within minutes or someone else scoops it.”
A Zillow Group spokesperson also confirmed that the ads are fake and told Inman the company is working to monitor scammers who use their logo or domain to mislead the real estate community.
“We’ll never ask for payment from our customers before we send a lead,” the spokesperson said. “If one of our customers gets a suspicious email that appears to be from us, she or he should report it to email@example.com as soon as possible so our team can review it and take action.”
Over the past year, most major lead-generating real estate platforms have grappled with this problem. In January, some agents received fake email and Facebook leads purposefully made to look like they came from realtor.com.