Scam Artists Try to Rent Ocean Beach Couple’s Home Without Them

by on March 4, 2020 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

In one of the strangest and twisted stories out of Ocean Beach these days is how some scam artists tried to rent a couple’s home on Saratoga – without their knowledge. Laura Acevedo from 10News reported on the scam.

It turns out, the Bergstroms, who own their home, found out that it had been listed for rent on Zillow and Trulia when a daughter’s friend asked them why their house was on Zillow. This came as quite a shock – as they had no knowledge of any such listing. Their house has never been up for rent since they’ve owned it.

Stephanie Bergstrom then called the phone number with the listing and acted as if she was a potential renter. As 10News reported, Stephanie said, “I called this woman and played along.” The woman she called said she was looking for a nice family to move in to her home.

At some point, Stephanie confronted the woman on the other end, telling her she was the real Stephanie Bergstrom. She told the scammer, “’We actually own a home on Saratoga. It’s the same home you’re advertising under my name.’ She immediately hangs up. I call her back and it’s disconnected.”

Then that weekend, a couple came to the house to check it out. Bergstrom told Channel 10 that the couple had wired $3,000 as part of a deposit. Bergstrom said, “I felt terrible. I started crying and I said, ‘I’m really sorry.’” Bergstrom said the woman was pregnant.

The fake listing was taken down, but the Bergstroms reported that many people have called or stopped. So many, in fact, they had to put up signs on their windows and front door explaining the fraud. They’re also concerned that the scam artists have  more victims.

A Zillow Group spokesperson issued this statement regarding the listing:

Zillow strives to provide a safe online community on our platform and we go to great lengths to police activity and 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 listing is found to be fraudulent, it is removed from Zillow as quickly as possible. In addition to removing scam listings from our sites as soon as they are detected if they do get posted, the team is also actively screening for possible scams and fraud, preventing many fraudulent listings from getting posted.

Zillow has a ‘Beware of Scams and Other Internet Fraud‘ page on the site, 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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Richard March 5, 2020 at 8:23 am

My neighbor had the same scam experience on Pescadero. Someone was trying to rent the very house he lives in. More scams to come I guess.

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Avatar daJohn March 6, 2020 at 6:45 am

I had this happen in the other unit where I rent. The owner got a property manager to lease the other unit. The new PM put all the pictures and address of the unit up on Craigslist and someone copied it and made an ad saying go look at this place from the outside its for rent. I had people showing up at my place at night asking if they could see inside the scam unit before they mailed a check for a deposit to the scam artist!!!!

The shocking thing is people must sometimes actually cut a deposit check without ever stepping inside these scam spots or people wouldn’t be scamming.

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Avatar Will March 8, 2020 at 7:27 am

A good thing to do for anyone who owns property is to list their address in a Google Alert. I have my address and street listed in quotes, with no city or state just to cast the widest net. That way your address ever shows up on the Internet, you’ll get a notice.

You might even want to set a Google Alert for you name. I did and it’s interesting what shows up.

And….my neighbor recently did a remodel that required them to move out for a month, They put a note in their front window saying that the house was not for rent. Interesting.

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