HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- A Highlands Ranch family says they found out someone had posted the home they own and live in for rent on the real estate website Zillow after their neighbor asked them if they were moving.
"It was kind of alarming," said homeowner Colby Shocker. "Going out and checking your house, whether it's for rent or sale is not something you do on a regular basis."
The Shocker family is not renting the home, but said they found it listed for rent with the original pictures from when they first bought their house a few years ago.
"It was almost like an invasion of privacy," he said.
Luckily, they caught It quickly and notified Zillow. They also contacted the property manager who they said apologized and agreed to take down the photos -- only to find the listing reposed with just the first photo changed.
"Definitely security and making sure no one was coming to our house. We've heard of other people where people are looking in the windows," said Shocker.
Here's how the scam typically works: Scammers put up a fake posting. They get the renter to wire them the first month's rent and then tell them to pick up the key in a lockbox at the house. When the renter shows up, they find no key, and no house for rent.
"It was up for $2,500 or $2,800 a month, so easily you could be out a couple thousand dollars without you even knowing," explained Shocker.
Shocker's wife posted about their experience on the Word of Mouth - Highlands Ranch Facebook page and dozens more commented saying they had the same thing happen. Which is why they now want to warn others.
"Everybody to go out and check -- obviously it's happening around the area," said Shocker.
To protect yourself from a rental scam.
First, do a property assessment search to make sure the person trying to rent you the house owns it.
You can also look for verified sources on Zillow which are listings from known and established property managers.
Zillow sent Denver7 the following statement:
Zillow goes to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our customer support team monitors activity on the site in a number of different ways and if a rental listing is found to be fraudulent, it is immediately removed from Zillow. Every rental listing on Zillow has a “Beware of Rental Scams” message at the top of the page, telling users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and directing them to our fraud and scams page, which provides valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings. Regarding the property in question, Zillow's Customer Service team removed the listing within 7 hours of it being posted.