July 25, 2012- The Better Business Bureau of Central California (BBB) would like to issue a business identity theft warning.
We have been made aware of a situation where an individual is fraudulently acting as Manco Abbott Real Estate Management. Here are the facts known to-date:
On Friday, July 20, 2012 Manco Abbott was contacted by a Visalia resident regarding a home he found listed for rent on Craigslist which was located in Fresno.
After confirming that Manco Abbott does not currently manage any single family homes, the concerned party forwarded the email he received to Maureen Lewis, Chief Financial Officer of Manco Abbott and included a screen shot of the Craigslist ad.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the contact information provided on the Craigslist ad directed consumers to a phone recorded message claiming to be Manco Abbott. A representative named “Neil” returned calls and sent via email a rental application to interested individuals. The application is not an official Manco Abbott application, although it does bear their new logo making it appear legitimate.
Additionally, the fraudulent application includes both an email and website address that is similar to the official Manco Abbott organization, with a hyphen being the only difference on the fraudulent email and website address. Example: email@example.com and www.manco-abbott.com. The fraudulent website address automatically forwards or links to the legitimate Manco Abbott website at www.mancoabbott.com.
According to the rental application and statements provided by victims, the false business application requests an upfront application fee of $35 per adult to be paid in the form of a REloadit Pack that can be obtained at local Vons stores. It also states that once an application is approved, a CASH security deposit is required.
Unknowing applicants are at risk for Identity Theft by providing personal and financial information in writing to this false business thinking it is Manco Abbott.
On Monday, July 23, 2012 Manco Abbott was contacted by another party regarding the same rental home in Fresno listed on a Craigslist ad. The prospective renter called the false business and asked to view the rental home. He was contacted by "Neil" and was told that their maintenance department would unlock the door of the home so he could preview the property. When he arrived at the property and found the door locked, he contacted the official Manco Abbott organization to verify if he was at the right location. Unfortunately it was a Saturday and the weekend answering service was not able to confirm whether the rental address was actually a property that Manco Abbott manages.
Manco Abbott officials located the actual owner of the home in question on Monday, July 23, 2013 to notify them of the situation. The homeowner verified that his house is actually listed for sale by owner and that he had noticed an increase volume of activity from people wanting to rent his home who presumably had found the address on the fraudulent Craigslist ad.
Manco Abbott has taken steps to notify the Fresno Police Department, Visalia Police Department, Craigslist and the website host company managing the fraudulent website to report the illegal activity.
The BBB is very concerned about the risk to unsuspecting applicants who are disclosing highly confidential personal information to false businesses who may in turn use their information for identity theft purposes.
The BBB is notifying all local media to warn consumers of this fraudulent activity to avoid additional people falling victim to this particular scam.