3 Ways to Identify Fake Listing Websites

As previously reported by RISMedia, fraudulent listing sites are often what third party real estate outfits choose to create when attempting to lure in vulnerable victims for profit. Sites often seem fully operational and can trick any real estate professional at first glance. However, each site is distinguishable if one digs a bit deeper into the provided information.

Here are three ways to tell if a listing site is fake:


First and foremost, determining if a listing website is fake can be much easier if human interaction or content provided to the public overall is limited. Also, if reviews are shown on the homepage, but just by a first name and last initial, such as “Claire G,” it’s most likely a fabricated quote and customer.

One of the 16 websites previously reported by RISMedia as a possible scam, GetRentToOwn, claimed positive press from a well-respected newspaper, the Times Union, in Albany, New York. The alleged critical acclaim read:

“One of the unique aspects of a lease option is the potential offer for putting no money down upon signing the lease. There are creative ways that can be explored when a person is short on finances, but wants the ability to make payments toward future homeownership.” — Times Union newspaper, Albany, New York.

Executive Editor and Vice President Casey Seiler debunked this in a statement: “I can’t find that paragraph in any Times Union content, whether ‘advertorial’ or newsroom-produced (the former bucket of content is, of course, always labeled as such). There’s nothing in our online archives as well.” Seiler also mentioned that he was going to “reach out to this outfit and ask them to either provide a link,” which he didn’t think they could do, “or take it down.” But, Seiler next attempted to call the GetRentToOwn phone line with no success, and its “contact us” page proved to be a dead end, providing no ability to contact the alleged organization.

Contact verification

Many of these sites have no physical address attached to them or they lack a legitimate phone number or email address. Sometimes, listing sites may also include random locations attached, labeled as the permanent address, so be sure to use google to determine whether or not the brokerage associated or listed house actually exists—and doesn’t direct you to a random parking lot across the country, which RISMedia discovered to be a reality when researching the alleged crime ring back in February.

Additionally, contact forms can even be falsely advertised too—as noted above by Seiler—and simply included in the website layout to trick visitors into thinking of its legitimacy. Check to see if you can contact site managers or staff through the form. Does it submit or just allow you to fill out your request with no ability to send? This is crucial in determining whether or not to pay a fee through the paywall to see homes, where the outfit can begin to steal your information.

Social media

Lastly, check to see if the website you’re scrolling through has active, consistent posts across various social media platforms, with engagement from human users—not bot accounts.

It’s important to also see that content is quality, not grainy or blurry, and that posts aren’t consistently similarly chosen stock photos rather than original content.

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