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Thursday, July 30, 2009

New identity theft scam

A new identity theft scheme has emerged, targeting landlords and renters. Here's a quote from a recent article by Connie Thompson at komonews.com:

"Someone is hijacking legitimate rental ads online, omitting the contact information, dropping the monthly rent by hundreds of dollars and steering renters to a Web site called eRentalApplications.

The site solicits both landlords and tenants, claiming to forward rental applications to landlords for specific properties listed on the site. Prospective tenants have to apply one line and submit an application fee of $14.95. Once the fee is cleared through Paypal, the site says your application will be submitted to the landlord. But landlords and property managers tell the Problem Solvers they know nothing about this company and the listings are unauthorized. In some cases the properties are not even available for rent. Local renters report being interrupted repeatedly by people knocking on the door wanting to look at the home they found listed online.

In addition to being charged $14.95, unwitting consumers are providing a disturbing amount of private information on the application; name, address, email address, date of birth, names and birth dates of all children, names of pets, current and previous addresses, current and previous employment information, credit history, drivers license and license plate numbers -- all just to apply for a home they've never seen.

The requested information has nothing to do with wanting to look at a house or apartment.Even more disturbing is that the privacy page, which also refers to the name Linskiy Company LLC, says the company can obtain more information, including your social security number, from your credit report. The site also says they can share your information with third parties.Should someone be intent on stealing your identity, they'd have everything they need. And for every application filed, whoever is behind eRentalApplications is collecting nearly $15 through Paypal. The Internet is being flooded with complaints from across the country.

I traced the company to what turns out to be a post office box in Roseville, California -- a city outside Sacramento. But the box belongs to a very shocked carpet cleaning business whose owner says had the box since the first of the year and has never heard of eRentalApplications. The California Department of Real Estate tells me the company does not have the license that's generally required to solicit landlords and tenants.My phone calls prompted California regulators to look into it. The Federal Trade Commission is also checking it out.

In the meantime, do not give money or information to eRentalApplications.com.Consumers with complaints are urged to contact the FTC and file complaints with the Better Business Bureau, and the Attorney General's offices in both California and Washington state."

One more scam to watch out for.

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