On March 29, 2022, like most people, I began my day by scrolling through my Facebook news feed. It didn’t take but a few minutes to come across a very interesting post. It was advertising a piece of property for sale in Berrien County, GA. Living in Berrien County myself, and wanting to work toward the purchase of my own property, it quickly grabbed my attention and pulled me in. Little did the person that made the post know, I don’t blindly follow trails. I pay attention to every detail along the way, and in this case, that would serve me well.
The post is very visually appealing with a photo gallery focused on a beautiful house. This is also where we find our first red flag. There is no address for the home. 99% of legitimate realtors and agents will proudly include the address of a property in their posts. Not all of them, but an overwhelming majority.
At this point though, I wasn’t too suspicious. I just figured the address would be available after clicking the link in the post, but when I clicked the link, I was taken to a website that looked like a real estate website, but not one property was listed for sale, rent, foreclosure, etc.
So, upon first glance, the site appears to work like Zillow.com with a search area. But, when you search for anything, you are not going to see results. Instead, you will be met with a screen wanting more of your personal information before showing you a single piece of property.
So, getting more skeptical by the click, I decided to humor them, and attempt to make an account. After filling out the form, do we finally get to see properties? You guessed it. Nope! Instead, we are met with more questions.
After filling out these questions, I figured, “Surely I can see the properties now.” What was my reward for all of my private information? Of course, I get redirected to a brand new website, and it feels almost like a full circle to square one. Now keep in mind that we have been on Rent2OwnHelper.com, but after this redirect, we are taken to MyRTOPro.com.
In the spirit of reaching the finishline of this rabit trail, I continued on giving the requested information on MyRTOPro.com. Of course, the “Free Trial” is the result of trying to search MyRTOPro.com. Well, let’s give it a try! It is, “Free” after all, right?
So, we have our info populated into the form to get our trial. Now, let’s click “Continue.”
Surprise, surprise. Who knew? A payment gateway that wants my credit card details in order to charge me $1 for a “Free Trial.” Keep in mind, we started this journey two websites ago, and we have yet to see a single piece of property for sale, after also searching on both websites.
At this point, it’s painfully obvious that these sites don’t have a search function, and have been setup to farm your information right out of your hands. I’ve come as far as I am going to on this click trail. I’ve been lied to already, so let’s look online for some actual info about the clowns that run this website. Let’s start with a Who.Is lookup of the domain name. This will tell us who owns the “.com” domain name “Rent2OwnHelper.com”.
Looking at the global Who.Is database gives us a business name and address. Let’s take a look on Google Maps. Surely we will be met with an office owned or operated by “Rent 2 Own Helper”.
Interestingly, we arrive at an office plaza with the office in question clearly marked with a red pin. So, we need a closer look. Let’s drop a street view pin as close as we can.
Well, look at that. Thank you Google. We can drop right in front of the door of the office. Does the sign say anything about “Rent 2 Own Helper”, or anything “Rent 2 Own?”
What’s this!? “Mail Link?” Okay, so we are dealing with someone who has rented a mailbox or something, right? Let’s zoom in and take an even closer look.
Yep, a mail proxy business. So, we have someone who wants all of your personal info short of your Social Security Number. They don’t show you one property for sale other than the bait piece that is used to hook your interest, and fish you through the forms. All the way giving up, private, critical, sensitive information that can be used for Identity theft. Meanwhile, the person behind this scam doesn’t want you knowing where they are from, where their office is, or anything else about themselves. They hide behind what they think is a wall of invisibility. They don’t realize that this much information is public. The trail can be followed further, and I may soon pick back up on the trail and follow it all the way to the real person behind this scam.
Please let this be a lesson if you would have fallen for this scam, or another like it. Be very careful, and skeptical before giving out your personal information online. Just because it looks nice doesn’t make it honest, or what you honestly think it is. I will soon be releasing a course teaching you in detail how to do this research yourself in order to validate websites, and businesses that you might come across and need to validate.