• Matt See

How to Detect Facebook Housing Scams

Updated: 4 days ago

Facebook has neglected fake profiles, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk while searching for housing. Many others and I are reporting the problem to Facebook, to what seems like closed ears 🙉. Facebook has a responsibility to protect its community and is letting us down. Please follow along and inform yourself of many of the characteristics of fake profiles, scammers, and general social miscreants.

Facebook scams have a little different flavor than Craigslist. Because scammers need to have profiles, they can be easier to detect if you look! However, because it feels like a real person, these profiles can be easier to trust. Renters have to look carefully at the person with whom they are communicating.

Here are a few characteristics of scammer profiles.

Many profiles have multiple red flags, so that should make it a little easier on you.

The URL Doesn't Match The Name.

Hopefully these are very obvious. Surprisingly, this happens a lot.

Parmenas is also using a brand ComfortHomeUS to seem more legimate. It has been active since 2015, but if you click the site, it doesn't even work! (here)

Likes and Other Activity Don't Match the Profile.

Look at who likes the pics. Thankfully the majority of the people in the world are good. If real people are liking the profile, then it serves as a blanket of trust- otherwise the scammer runs a large risk of alienating his or her existing social circles.

If the user has no likes, doesn't allow likes to be visible, or only has a few people liking their pics and posts, this is a warning sign. It might be useful to investigate the friends you do find on the profile. If those friends have red flags, be twice warned!

All 4 of these Likes go back to Nigeria. Surprisingly, folks in Nigeria account for a lot of the scam activity on Facebook and Craigslist.

User is in Many, Many Groups.

A very telltale way to find scammers is to look for people that are sporadically joining the housing groups in each of the major US cities. The only rhyme or reason for this is to hunt for people to scam. Surprisingly, there are thousands of profiles like these in the traditional housing groups and they are hard to detect. Sometimes, only group admins can monitor this when they are answering new member requests. However, many group admins let everyone in.

Profile Picture is Blurry or Altered.

In order to get approved and images uploaded past Facebook's image recognition software, sometimes fake profiles try to alter the original image slightly by adding blur or a similar effect. This creates the appearance of a unique identity.

In a Similar Vein, The Profile Has Lots of Stock Images.

I was excited about 2020, but I never thought about making it my cover photo, as well as as the only thing on my profile. Hope you see the red flag within this orange. The left image was an obvious stock in the context of the rest of 'her' profile. Similarly, users with no profile pictures should be avoided.

User Has No History, or Very Recent Updates.

Watch out for recent updates, or a limited selection of posts from the the user. New profiles are much more likely to be fraudulent, as it is difficult to keep the scam running for many years.

No Friends, Suspicious Friends, or 5,000 Friends...

It is important to see and understand the person's real social graph. There are often networks of fake profiles, so you really have to go deep into the profile and the friends of the user. If anything from your research seems off, it's a good idea to look for another listing elsewhere.

User is a Locked Profile.

Locked profiles are a feature in Southeast Asia to help users protect their identities. Locked profiles don't exist in the US, and certainly not in Los Angeles. This one also seems to have his/her pronouns wrong, but I'll try to not judge. It's common for scammers to impersonate the opposite gender.

User Wants to Get Off Platform to Chat.

There really is no need. Facebook allows for full communication abilities, including images. Scammers like to get off platform in case their profiles are found and removed while talking to you.

Other Warning Signs to Detecting Scams.

  • Building listing is too good to be true. This means a post that is several hundred dollars under even cheap rentals. Scammers are playing a different game. The more people they can draw in, the better

  • Asking for Paypal, Venmo, CashApp, TransferWise, Western Union, or MoneyGram

  • Weird story about the unit's availability. Owner out of town? Suspicious. Lots of demand so you need to pay money? Don't.

  • You can ask: who was last tenant?

  • Pictures of the building don't match location

  • Weird Jobs. "Facebook App" is the most common 'odd job'

One Last Tip: Join the NO SPAM Housing Groups and check out ProfileCheck.

Facebook Groups. You can see a full list of the groups here. It's a silly name, but we have blocked thousands of known scammers that are trying to proliferate across Facebook Housing groups.

ProfileCheck is a free service to help you detect potential scammers and ensure listings are accurate. Enter a link to the Profile's Facebook page, upload any relevant screenshots, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible with a second pair of eyes. 👀

This is the first post in our information series about Facebook scams. Our second post is about How To Avoid Getting Scammed.

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