Online leads are the lifeblood of many real estate businesses, and some agents and brokers pay a pretty penny each month to companies like realtor.com and Zillow to generate these leads with ZIP code-targeted ads and preferred placement on their sites.
But, as Boulder, Colorado-based broker E.J. Footer discovered, not all leads are good leads — in fact, behind those leads may be scammers looking to make a buck off unsuspecting agents.
Footer says he recently rejoined the National Association of Realtors, and someone suggested that he update his profile on realtor.com (which has a perpetual license to operate the site from NAR) even if he wasn’t planning to purchase leads or use some of the site’s other tools for agents.
On January 7, about three weeks after he updated his profile, Footer received an email offering one pre-qualified real estate lead as a trial for realtor.com’s lead generation service. To receive the lead’s full information, which included a phone number and email address, all Footer had to do was pay $10.
“I had just signed up and never gotten a lead [from realtor.com] before, and at first I was very suspicious of it,” he said. “But I thought, well I did just sign back up with the Realtor association … and maybe this is just a [teaser] ad to buy an ad from them.”
So, Footer sent the $10 using his PayPal account and got a follow-up email with Sherri Kramer’s full phone number and email address.
He immediately sent Kramer an email introducing himself, and a few minutes later he got a one-sentence reply from Kramer, saying she…