Over the past few weeks, BBB Serving Greater Cleveland has received several calls about A1 Realty Home. The business lists several homes available for rent in the Cleveland area.
A Cleveland woman contacted BBB yesterday after searching Craigslist for a single home rental property that would accept pets. She was excited to find several options that seemed perfect and fit her budget.
"She found the perfect house. The rent was very affordable and it would even allow her to have her dog with no security deposit," said Sue McConnell with the BBB.
The properties were advertised by A1 Realty Home and listed (818) 435-3998 for information.
The woman told BBB, "The man I spoke to said his name was 'Dave Green - Green, like your money.' He was a fast talker. He said the house was cheap because it was 'pre-foreclosed.' You know, when you have a pet, you are vulnerable. I could get this house and didn't have to pay a deposit for my dog or anything. But he wouldn't give me the address until I wired $500 to Robero Santos Jr. in the Philippines. That's when I started to feel funny about it."
"The catch was he wouldn't give her the address. She had to wire him 5-hundred dollars actually wire 5-hundred dollars to a person in the Phillipines in order to get more information about the house," said McConnell.
Advertising phantom properties for sale and/or rent online has become a common scam.
Pictures of homes are often lifted from valid real estate websites and may not even exist in your area.
In the case of A1 Realty Home, BBB found that a home advertised for rent by the business and listed as located in Cleveland was also advertised for rent in Wilmington, North Carolina by another unrelated company.
Ad listed by A1 Realty for Cleveland home: https://cleveland.craigslist.org/apa/4686340226.html
Ad for Wilmington property listed for sale by a North Carolina properties management business: http://wilmington.craigslist.org/apa/4641368665.html
The pictures of the two properties are identical and the description appears to have been slightly tweaked by A1 Realty Home for the Cleveland ad.
"At first glance it could fool somebody. Looks very legitimate, but it appears that all they did was lift the pictures of the real house in North Carolina that was online for rent and post it as a house in Cleveland," McConnell said.
The domain registration for A1 Realty Home's website, A1RealtyHome.com, originated in Panama.
BBB emailed a request for further information to the company but has not received a response to date.
BBB offers these characteristics common to rental property scams:
• You must wire or use a pre-loaded debit card (e.g., Green Dot MoneyPak card) to pay a security deposit, first month's rent, application fee or other upfront fees before signing a lease.
• You cannot inspect the property prior to making a decision.
• The rent is much lower than similar properties in your area.
• The owner is located out of state or in another country.
BBB suggests you carefully research the business. Research the company name, phone number, and email online.
Ask to inspect the property and review the lease before making any decisions.