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Real Scams on Real Estate Sites


    Real estate listings’ sites are just as susceptible to scams as other online marketplaces. Here are some tips on how to prevent fraud and what content moderation teams should look for.

    When people start looking for homes to rent or buy, the internet is the first place they begin their search. And, as with other types of classified sites, scammers are also using real estate listings to extract money from potential buyers and renters.

    The problem, as with many online marketplace scams, is that they’re not always that easy to detect. Here are some things real estate site owners should be aware of from a content management perspective, and a few ways to keep your users safe.

    Fake Photos

    It almost goes without saying, but a lack of photography on a property website is completely nuts! But it is harder to detect and a lot more common when scammers list pictures of properties they don’t own. In fact, often, they’ll use the same pictures on different sites, listed in several different locations. A way to prevent this is to set up a filter that detects words and phrases commonly used in scams that trigger manual reviews when posted. Moderators can then do a quick Google search to see if the image is also posted elsewhere and to confirm the validity of the listing.

    Overseas Landlords

    While many genuine investors and landlords will own property in other countries, being able to flag discrepancies between where a landlord or seller says they are and where they actually are, offers your users an additional layer of security. That’s one of the reasons we introduced geolocation filters to our Implio tool last year. Additionally, scammers operating under this guise will typically claim to be from a trustworthy organization: such as the UN, the military, or may even claim they’re working away as missionaries. Trigger terms like these should be on your moderation filter list.

    Multiple Listings and duplicate images

    Some landlords or vendors may list the same property more than once. This can be common when they’re particularly keen to promote a specific property using different keywords. While this should be handled through good moderation practices, it isn’t strictly deceptive. However, when the same piece of real estate is listed as available in different locations, a scammer is most definitely at work.

    Requested Payments

    While the topics listed above are arguably easier to screen for, less obvious, and perhaps more common, are requests for payment; like an upfront holding fee deposit or a payment demand for a showing. In instances like these, if your site has an in-app messaging service, with the right moderation service, you can flag telltale requests for payment via PayPal, Western Union, or MoneyGram; unsolicited payments or overpayments made to the user.

    It’s always important to reinforce to your users that extreme caution must be exercised when transferring any sum of money, particularly overseas. But scammers are savvy and many will encourage users to take the conversation to personal email. In cases like these, the best thing you as the site owner, can do is to raise awareness among your users.

    Ultimately, the vast majority of fraudsters are trying to get users to send them money for a property that probably doesn’t exist or has nothing to do with them whatsoever. Detection is always the best form of prevention. Please get in touch to learn more about how Besedo can help your real estate business.

    Or learn more about content challenges for real estate sites.

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    Global, full-service leader in content moderation

    We provide automated and manual moderation for online marketplaces, online dating, sharing economy, gaming, communities and social media.

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