Is RentAdvocates a Scam Site?
On the morning of March 7, one of our regular readers from Cincinnati, Ohio sent us an email that she thought was suspicious. The email came from Kenya Holloway, Housing Coordinator of the Cincinnati Office for a company called Rentadvocates. Ms. Kenya Holloway was emailing our reader the good news to say that she was eligible for a housing grant of up to $25,000! Ms. Holloway went on to say that Rentadvocates[.]com was mandated to help Ohio residents. At the bottom of her email, in small print, it says that “RentAdvocates is an affiliate of CIT Bank,” “Over $3.8 million in funding is available” and over 75,000 residents have been served. They claim to be the “#1 Advocacy Company in the State of OH.” As one might expect from a legitimate service, all links pointed directly or indirectly to their website Rentadvocates[.]com. (Click screenshot to enlarge.)
At first we thought our TDS reader was mistaken. Everything about this email looked legitimate and easily verifiable. Afterall, not only is there a website for RentAdvocates[.]com, but Mrs. Kenya Holloway provided her phone number (800-988-8661) and made a point of saying “I’m at my desk or with my phone – so I can get you setup right now!” And It didn’t bother us that her name was “Kenya Holloway” but her email address was kenya.winslow “@” rentadvocates[.]com because that may have reflected a change in marital status. However, as a courtesy to our reader, and because we’re naturally skeptical folks, we decided to look up the domain rentadvocates[.]com on our favorite WHOIS tool. That website name was registered just 5 days earlier in Canada on March 2, 2020! We now smelled a rat and the game was afoot!
Though our online tools did not show any signs of malware waiting for visitors at rentadvocate[.]com, we weren’t taking any chances and used two different tools to take a remote screenshot of the top page of their website. That screenshot is below. Between their website and Kenya Holloway’s email, there are many claims made by RentAdvocates[.]com that we’ve found to be complete lies or void of any proof…
- They claim to have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau website, BBB.org
- They claim to have a 5 star rating with TrustPilot.com, adding in small print that they were “voted #1 funding source in 2019 & 2020”
- They claim to have a 5 star rating with the financial service Bauer Financial
- They list their phone number as 800-988-8861
- They list the address of their “US Headquarters” as 14 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005
- At the bottom of Kenya Holloway’s email, in small print, it says that the stock symbol for rentadvocates[.]com is RTADV.
- Also at the bottom of Kenya Holloway’s email, in small print, it says that RentAdvocates are the “#1 Advocacy Company In The State of OH.”Click image to enlarge:
This is why we believe that RentAdvocates[.]com is a scam website….
1. They claim to have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau website, BBB.org
We visited BBB.org and conducted a search for RentAdvocates in both New York, where they are supposedly headquartered, and Ohio, where they are supposedly the #1 advocacy company and “mandated” by the state of Ohio to help residents with housing costs. The Better Business Bureau has no record whatsoever of this business, anywhere!
2. They claim to have a 5 star rating with TrustPilot.com, adding in small print that they were “voted #1 funding source in 2019 & 2020.”
We searched Trustpilot’s database of companies for rentadvocates. It is not listed. We also asked Google to conduct a search for rentadvocates from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019 — a time when they say they were “voted #1 funding source.” Google found no mention of their business or website at all!
3. They claim to have a 5 star rating with the financial service Bauer Financial
We searched Bauer Financial’s star ratings database and they do not list rentadvocates at all, let alone what star rating they may be.
4. They list their phone number as 800-988-8861
We called their phone number and recorded the message. A “bot” voice answered and delivered this message…
“Welcome to Rent Advocates, housing support line. If you know your party’s three digit extension, please dial it now. If you’re calling after office hours or do not know your party’s three digit extension please visit us online at www.rentadvocates[.]com. Thank you for calling and have a wonderful day.”
Take another look at Kenya Holloway’s email above where she lists her phone number. She did not provide any three digit extension. Therefore, it is impossible to reach ANYONE according to their phone message!
We also conducted a Google search for their phone number and found absolutely nothing except a listing on freedomvoice[.]com showing that this phone number was recently for sale. On March 7 when we visited that website to see if the phone number was still for sale, it was not.
5. They list the address of their “US Headquarters” as 14 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005
When we used Google to search for their business name at the Wall Street address in New York, Google finds absolutely nothing!
In fact, when we use Google to search for RentAdvocates, it finds nothing at all EXCEPT for the current website itself. NO other website knows anything about RentAdvocates, and other webpages on the site are not found by Google either. In fact, if we set Google’s search tools to search for RentAdvocates[.]com website from January 1, 2019 through February 29, 2020, Google finds NO SUCH WEBSITE!
6. At the bottom of Kenya Holloway’s email, in small print, it says that the stock symbol for rentadvocates[.]com is RTADV.
We visited MarketWatch.com and conducted a stock symbol lookup for “RTADV” using their database. Market Watch found nothing at all for that symbol, though it offered us the closest possible symbol, REDW for Redwood Financial.
7. Also at the bottom of Kenya Holloway’s email, in small print, it says that RentAdvocates are the “#1 Advocacy Company In The State of OH.”
If you ask Google “what is the #1 advocacy company in the state of Ohio” you won’t find any link or mention of RentAdvocates.
Could we somehow be mistaken in our assessment? Did we just do Ms. Kenya Holloway a terrible diservice? Let’s take a deep dive into this woman who claims to be the “Housing Coordinator” for the Cincinnati Office of RentAdvoactes[.]com. A Google search, as you might predict by now, turns up nothing, except for two questionable websites located in Russia.
“Housing Coordinator” sounds like a very important job. Perhaps Ms. Holloway has a Linkedin account we can look up. We found one! But not a very credible account…. It has 1 connection, no contact information, no experiences listed, no nothing! It’s nothing more than a placeholder.
And so we began to wonder…. What if Ms. Kenya Holloway is not who she says she is?! We conducted a reverse image search with Google Images and, lo and behold, the photo used in the email that was sent to our TDS reader is a stolen photo of a realtor in Canada named Jasmine Lee. She works for the realty firm called Houssmax.ca. The fraudster who sent the email stole Ms. Lee’s photo from her Realty website.
The Daily Scam has already begun to notify authorities in Ohio who need to know about this fake website, as well as the FBI. Our biggest concern is that this website is being used to gather very personal information from people who are tricked into “applying” for a housing grant. (Click to enlarge images.)