Homestarsearch.com, an internet-based home purchase/rental listing company, has recently been subject to numerous complaints that their business is nothing more than a scam.
When visiting their website, it’s hard to miss the banner headlining the page: “Your Number One Source for pre-foreclosure and foreclosure properties nationwide!” Buttons linking to information on rent to own programs, free credit reports and a frequently asked questions page about real estate and foreclosures offer collected information that can be found elsewhere online. Another large text blocks proclaims: “over 1 million listings updated daily available at your fingertips.” A labeled “Protect yourself from rental scams”, ironically enough, takes you a local newscast about avoiding apartment rental scams.
The true purpose of the site becomes clear when you notice that in addition to all of these basic links, there are several click-through boxes that say, “Join now for your free 10 day trial.” A large interactive map of the United States gives on the option to check on a particular state for quick access to listings in that area. Two other areas have boxes to be filled out, one for a property search by location and another for determining the value of a home. Attempting to complete these forms, or clicking on a state to search the listings available there, leads to the same registration page linked to by the “Join now” buttons which allows the user to sign up for the free 10 day trial offer.
Of course, the free membership trial isn’t exactly free. The small print states that the price of the “free” trial is a small “Processing and Handling Fee” of $5.95. They neglect to explain what exactly needs to be processed or handled in order to allow interested customers to check out the site’s listings for 10 days. The real hook comes in the monthly membership fee of $39.99 that will automatically be charged beginning as soon as the 10 days are up.
And what do you get for this $5.95 free trial and $39.99 monthly service? Not much of any use, if the majority of complaints are to be believed.
The list of available homes are not just homes on the market, they are mostly homes in foreclosure. If you are interested in purchasing one, you must either call the homeowner directly at the provided number, or Homestarsearch provides a form letter that can be printed from their site to be sent to the foreclosing homeowner expressing interest.
According to LaChele S., in a March 16th complaint, the provided list is neither thorough nor accurate. She writes that she went on “the website, wrote down all the phone numbers to homes that were within my budget, called the homes, and almost everyone said that their home wasn't in foreclosure and I got cussed out by one home owner!”
Besides their website, Homestarsearch has also been guilty of posting bogus Craig’s List home listings in an effort to dupe unsuspecting consumers to sign up for their “services”.
The listings, which are being regularly removed by Craig’s List administrators after complaints are received, appear as location-specific offers of affordable and often very nice homes that have been foreclosed on and are up for sale. The interested customer is then directed to call Homestarsearch and sign up for the monthly service, at which point they will be provided contact information for the particular listing that piqued their interest. The problem is the listing is bogus. The home either isn’t available in that area or doesn’t exist, and certainly doesn’t appear on any of the lists that Homestarsearch provides after the customer has signed up based on interest in that particular house.
Claims that Homestarsearch can help an interested buyer find a home in their area are also highly suspect. One customer, Medea W., called based on a Craig’s List ad and was guaranteed by a customer service representative that there 27 homes listed in the specific area where she was looking to purchase. Medea then “searched the website 5 minutes later to find the 27 properties that were mentioned, and to no surprise there were not any properties for this location listed.” She called customer service back and they searched for her, but soon confirmed that there were no listings in that area. The customer service rep had misled the woman to get her to sign up.
Websites and message boards are being inundated with complaints about this particular company, all of which trend towards the above examples. So Homestarsearch is home to many disgruntled customers, they can just cancel and get a refund, right? Not so easy.
The free trial which turns into an automatically generated monthly charge is a popular tool used by shady companies to bilk potential customers out of cash for whatever worthless services are being offered. In many cases, the fees will continue to be charged each month until the customer contacts the company and directly requests that the contract be ended. Many of these scammers make it incredibly difficult to complete the process though, and based on reports from disgruntled consumers, Homestarsearch.com seems to fall into line with type of scam.
For contact information the website lists an email address. Emails sent to this address tend to go unanswered. One number is listed as both customer service and for billing questions. For billing questions it is extension 5. If you call the number and try to press through to this extension an automated voice comes back and claims the extension is incorrect.
Expect to be on hold, waiting to talk to a human being, for at least 15 to 20 minutes. If your call is about anything other than signing up for the service, expect to get the run around.
There are complaints of the customer service representatives repeatedly hanging up on people who are calling to cancel the service; often the reps claim they are having issues with their phone lines.
When LeChele S. called to cancel she was put on hold for the cancelling department, after waiting for over an hour there was no answer. She repeatedly called back and had no better results; eventually she cancelled her credit card to avoid the charges.
Ian S. a military serviceman stationed in San Diego, called to inquire about cancelling and describes the reaction he got: “I called to figure out how to cancel my trial and the MANAGER called me, and ALL military, unethical warmongers. I was furious and was told I wouldn't receive my refund. The managers all say there is no one above them to talk to. They do not give out any other numbers or information to help resolve your issue. I was hung up on over a dozen times. If you try to get a refund, they will repeatedly tell you NO, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
This company should be avoided at all cost. If you have fallen victim to their “services” already, please use the links below to report Homestarsearch.com to the proper agencies. The more complaints received the sooner these scammers will be shut down. A perfect illustration of this company and how they operate is provided by the complaint by Jenny J. made April 21st in this year.
“The customer service rep told me that they have a B+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. That is a complete lie…I called the BBB and they told me they had an F rating.”
Better Business Bureau:
Federal Trade Commission:
Internet Crime Complaint Center: