‘Flabbergasted’: Jacksonville homeowner says she learned her house was listed for rent after someone came to look at it

The I-TEAM found a number of listing sites share content, so when a fraudulent listing pops up on one website, it can easily spread

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville woman says her home was listed for rent on several websites without her consent in February.

“It is just kind of like really invasive,” said homeowner Vicki Ray. “It’s just scary. … I have no idea how they got ahold of my house. It just dosen’t make any sense.”

The News4JAX I-TEAM found a number of listing sites share content, so when a fraudulent listing pops up on one website, it can easily spread.

Ray said she heard from neighbors that her house had been listed for rent online.

“My neighbor called and said that the neighbor across the street had been outside with her kids, and some lady was in her SUV parked out front,” she said.

That was unusual for the quiet street in the Southside Johns Creek neighborhood. The woman eventually asked the neighbor if Ray’s house was for rent.

“She says, ‘Not that I know of. They’re the owners,’” Ray said.

Ray said the woman had seen the property for rent online — and the “owner” had said that he had moved out and was in California, even though she and her husband had no plans to vacate their home of three years.

“I was flabbergasted, for one,” Ray said.

It left her feeling vulnerable — could she be blamed for the scam? What would happen if someone showed up ready to move in?

“You feel like you’re violated,” she said. “Because I don’t know if I’m going to get hurt by all this. … Like, if people are going to come after me saying, ‘We are renting out your house, and you’re taking money from me.’”

Her neighbor pointed out three sites where her three-bedroom, two-bath home was listed for rent for $2,000 — Realtor.com, Motovo and Zumper. It was a low-ball ask, in Ray’s opinion.

“I’m only 9 minutes from the beach,” she said. “It’s a nice, nice neighborhood.”

Vicki Ray told the I-TEAM that her home was listed for rent on several websites without her consent. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

She said that the listing was quickly removed from Realtor.com and Motovo, but that she wasn’t able to get in touch with Zumper. However, the listing appears to also have been removed from the platform.

Both Realtor.com and Motovo display listings from Zumper, which according to its website, is used by millions of people to find rentals. In a news release from 2021, Motovo’s parent company said it would receive more than 500,000 rental listings per month from the rental platform.

On the Better Business Bureau website, the platform also has dozens of complaints about scam rentals and difficulty reporting problems.

Ray said she wants rental listing sites to verify that offerings are legitimate — and is thankful the would-be renter who saw a scam ad for her house came by to check it out for themselves.

“Lucky for her, she did that, because otherwise she might have given money to rent it and come over here and you know, bought a U-Haul and moved in,” she said.

A spokesperson for Zumper said, “Zumper’s robust vetting process includes both manual and AI-fueled screening, plus contracts with third-party vendors to further mitigate scams. This particular listing was recently flagged as spam by our systems, and has been removed from our platform.”

A spokesperson from Realtor.com says that rental scams are a common problem and that there’s no foolproof way to eliminate them. The spokesperson said they actively monitor listings and immediately remove ones they find to be fraudulent.

The Federal Trade Commission says red flags for false listings include being asked to wire money, being asked for a security deposit or first month’s rent before you have met the broker or signed a lease, and the lister saying they are out of the country.

About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter