Several consumers have recently been victimized by online scams that use the RE/MAX name. The scammer places an ad online for an apartment rental. Photos of the apartment show a perfectly furnished, clean, living space and the rent is much lower than it should be for the area. After the potential renter expresses interest in the property, the renter is told that the property owner is out of town-often an expatriate living in another country.
The scammer tells the renter that RE/MAX has a service that will receive and hold the security deposit and rent and send the keys to the renter so that the renter can check out the apartment.
In reality, no RE/MAX office or real estate agent is involved in this operation. The renters are tricked into believing that if they dislike the apartment, they will get their money back.
The scam has taken in people across the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other countries. As much as $2,000 was involved in one transaction.
In one version of the scam, the consumer who answers the ad receives an e-mail from someone purporting to be the property owner. The e-mail includes a link to a Web site that describes the fake rental transaction service. The Web site may look somewhat official because it uses RE/MAX logos and graphics and it may include links to actual pages of remax.com. In some cases, the e-mail refers the consumer to the actual RE/MAX website, remax.com (although RE/MAX World Headquarters, which operates remax.com, does not operate a rental transaction service).
The renter is also asked for a mailing address – and then receives an e-mail that looks as though it was sent from RE/MAX. The e-mail may have an official-looking transaction number in the subject line or text. The e-mail lists the renter’s address for the supposed delivery of the keys and lease and gives instructions to wire the apartment deposit via Western Union or Money Gram to a RE/MAX representative.
Scammers often counterfeit well-trusted brands to gain consumers’ trust, and may play on the consumer’s sympathy, by claiming that the property owner has already paid money to initiate the transaction. The scam may include the name of an actual RE/MAX office or agent. To verify any information, please contact the RE/MAX office or agent through the “Find an Office” or “Find an Agent” feature on remax.com. You may also e-mail email@example.com to verify the validity of an offer or to report a scam that uses the RE/MAX name.
If you believe you’ve been involved in a scam involving the RE/MAX name, please include the URL of the ad you responded to, and if possible, include full e-mail headers of messages so RE/MAX can try to determine the message’s origin. In addition, you should report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or your country’s equivalent scam reporting agency. You should also report the scam to the relevant apartment listing Web site.