Though the listing has since been removed, a Crescent City homeowner was alarmed to find a photo of his house attached to an advertisement indicating it was up for auction.
Rene Quintana, who lives and works in Arcata and owns a home on Freeman Street in Crescent City, said his partner found out via a neighbor Thursday that a picture of his house was on Zillow.com along with a listing directing potential buyers to place bids for the property at Auction.com.
However, though the home in the photo was his, Quintana said the address in the listing, 179 Freeman Street, is not his address. A picture is not included in the listing for 179 Freeman Street on Auction.com.
Quintana said he called Zillow’s corporate office in Portland and when he couldn’t reach someone there, he called Auction.com. Quintana said Auction.com confirmed that they have a picture on there and when he told them the home wasn’t for sale and asked them to remove the photo, representatives with the internet-based service referred him to the auction’s agent. However, Quintana said, Auction.com refused to say who the agent connected with the advertisement was.
“I immediately called the police and the police shared with me they’re aware there are scams like that,” Quintana said. “They’re using pictures of people’s homes and they’re saying it’s an auction and people go make bids and I don’t know what’s transacted, but if somebody’s uncertain how a bidding process occurs, they wind up exchanging cash or a check or God knows what else thinking they’re buying a home and it’s false.”
Auction.com" class="auto" target="_blank">class="s1">Auction.com did not respond to the Triplicate’s attempt to reach a spokesperson for comment.
Quintana said he made a report with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and spoke with the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office and the Crescent City Police Department.
While the homeowner believes the erroneous listing of his home on Zillow.com could be connected to a scam, Viet Shelton, a spokesman with the web-based real estate listing service, said including the photo belonging to the advertisement showing Quintana’s house was an error. The listing itself has since been removed, Shelton said.
“Zillow’s data comes from a variety of sources including public records and third-party for-sale listings and an error in the information provided to us can sometimes appear on our site,” Shelton stated in an email. “Zillow strives for accuracy and if consumers flag inaccurate data we will remove it. After an investigation, it appears that the information provided by a third-party listing company was incorrect. We have moved the incorrect listing from our site.”
Del Norte County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven said though placing someone else’s address on an auction website was new to him, he’s heard of similar scams involving erroneous listings for homes to rent.
“They’ll just indiscriminately pick a house somewhere,” he said. “You can look at the house and then they’ll put the rent at $1,100 a month or $1,000 even and it’s probably a $1,400-$1,500 a month place. They put these really really good rental prices and what people will do they’ll put up a first and a last and a cleaning deposit. They want to get it before anybody else does kind of thing.”
When that happens, the person who fell for the scam is often cheated out of their money, Steven said. He said his worry is that the victim of the scam would vent their frustration on the homeowner whose property was erroneously listed as available for rent.
“It’s tough because as is the case with a lot of other scams we see in our society so often the perpetrator, the bad guy, is overseas; outside the United States,” Steven said. “The likelihood that there’s any kind of satisfaction you’ll see in the future is almost zero.”
Quintana said he and his partner have had people visiting his home who are interested in purchasing it, but this is the first time a photo of his house has wound up on the internet.
“It’s gotten out of hand where it’s now on the World Wide Web at an auction place, which I have nothing to do with,” he said. “It’s like putting my picture in front of a false name.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .