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Real estate scam or a shoddy marketing campaign?

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Difficult to tell…

As a Realtor you get leads from various marketing efforts, some over Facebook or Twitter, others over email or directly from your contact page on your website. Your first task is to determine the legitimacy of each lead and whether they are real people actually house hunting or seeking a listing agent or if they are a scammer or time waster. When you get an email that says “I have all cash need for any house, I saw your sign in yard and need to send you funds now, but have to do it through your personal bank accounts,” but you’re not a listing agent and your sign is in no yard, plus your personal bank is mentioned, you can obviously deduce the lead is not likely to be legitimate.

But it’s not always that easy to determine the legitimacy of an email contact and without the ability to filter, a lot of time can be wasted working with someone who has no intent to buy or sell a home. But what other intent could they possibly have to contact you? Perhaps they’re attempting to direct market to Realtors.

Take for example the recent national emails from an individual named Toby Grundtner who has emailed agents across the nation with the same story. Below is an original contact email from him, unedited:

From: Toby Grundtner
Organization: CCS
Reply-To:
Date: Sat, 11 Jun 2011 23:58:43 -0400
To: Chris Nichols
Subject: Moving out of state

Hi Chris, I think I sent a message before, please let me know if you get this one. My parents might be moving their business to Utah next month. Right now they have a marine manufacturing business in Eau Claire, WI. One of the cities they are considering moving to is Orem.

They really don’t know a lot of people in that area, they did some searching for realtors online and found your info. They wanted me to get in touch with you (they aren’t very computer savvy). I also emailed other realtors in the Orem area, just to get a couple of ideas (some say that it’s a great time to buy, other say prices are going to continue to drop). In your opinion, how is the Real Estate market in Orem right now? Is it time to buy?
They may be calling you soon for more information. They will need commercial and residential information.

I also wanted to let you know that Jen and I own and operate a remote computer repair company. We have been in business for 7 years and have over 3,000 customers. We have just achieved an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau! We also service the Orem area.

We also have a great group of Microsoft Certified technicians who can hook up to your computer remotely to help with any issues you might have. Some issues can be resolved for as little as $18.75! If we don’t fix it, you don’t pay. We can usually connect within minutes of your call.

Let us know if you need any help in your office or at your home.

Thanks so much Chris!!!

Also remember to join us on Facebook for regular tips and computer related alerts. Click thebutton to see our helpful page.

“When in doubt, give me a shout”

Toby Grundtner – President
Coastal Computer Solutions
Microsoft Certified Professional
866.324.8692 | toll free

New CCS Referral Program: You will receive 10% credit of your referral’s first invoice to be used for future onsite or remote services. After 5 referrals you will also receive a free hour of support valued at $75. Let others know to call our office directly at 866.324.8692 and to give your name when contacting us!

Sales pitch or inquiry?

Right off the bat, this feels fishy… why would he tell you so much about his business which is completely unrelated to the transaction, rather than focus on details regarding his parents?

Realtor Chris Nichols shared with us his response:

From: Chris Nichols [mailto:chris@buysellinvestutah.com]
Sent: Monday, June 13, 2011 10:16 AM
To: Info@Remote-Cure.Info
Subject: Re: Moving out of state

Toby,

It’s a great time to buy in Orem right now. Inventory levels are dropping, prices seem to have stabilized, and sales are up without the tax credit this year. I would be happy to help your parents with any of their real estate needs. They can reach me via e-mail or my cell 80.368.5337 and I would be happy to answer any questions they have.

As for computers, I gave up on PC about 9 months ago and am thoroughly enjoying using a Mac now. I will pass your info on to my broker and to our association management in case they have any PC help needs.

Regards,

Chris Nichols
2011 President
Utah County Association of REALTORS®

It was a kind response that extended graciousness to the potential client’s son, and nothing was said that would provoke further sales pitches. But then:

From: Toby Grundtner
Organization: CCS
Reply-To:
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2011 12:30:09 -0400
To: Chris Nichols
Subject: RE: Moving out of state

Thanks for writing! Their names are Katie and Dennis, I will pass your helpful info on to them. They will be in touch with details.

Glad to hear you have gone to mac. Careful, rumor is that a virus is in the works now that mac is becoming more popular.

Thanks for keeping us in mind for any PC needs for friends and clients. We are based in Clearwater, FL and we remotely service home and office PCs all over the country.

• $75/hr – Remote Service starts at $18.75
• 12 Certified Technicians
• No Fix, No Pay
• No charged travel time
• 7 years in business
• Highly rated on Angie’s List and BBB
• Same day response time
• Refer us to your friends and family for $$$.
• No contracts
• Remote support available, we connect in minutes and have you up and running in no time!!

Thanks again!! We come from a town of 1110 people, small town values, hard work and honesty (sounds like a campaign slogan).
I hate nothing more than to feel like I have been ripped off, and that’s how we run our business.
Feel free to call anytime, even if it’s just for advice.

Also remember to join us on Facebook for regular tips and computer related alerts. Click the button to see our helpful page.

“When in doubt, give me a shout”

Toby Grundtner – President
Coastal Computer Solutions
Microsoft Certified Professional
866.324.8692 | toll-free

New CCS Referral Program: You will receive 10% credit of your referral’s first invoice to be used for future onsite or remote services. After 5 referrals you will also receive a free hour of support valued at $75. Let others know to call our office directly at 866.324.8692 and to give your name when contacting us!

Wait, I thought your parents were moving to Utah

Grundtner also emailed Missouri Realtor Jessica Hicock:

On Jun 29, 2011, at 9:21 PM, Toby Grundtner wrote:

Hi Jessica, I emailed you awhile back to let you know that my parents were thinking of moving to Springfield. They needed to sell their home and business space before making the move. Well, the closing has fallen apart on the commercial space so that has thrown a huge delay in everything. I just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know why the long delay.
I will keep you posted if anything changes, as you can imagine they aren’t too happy.
I have attached an example of our monthly newsletter that I send out, there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom if you’re not interested, but it really does contain a lot of helpful info.
Thanks For your time, I will let you know what happens with my folks, they still are bound and determined to move to Missouri. [attached was a long promotional email with computer tips]

Hicock was already aware of Grundtner’s email scam/campaign to Realtors and wrote back accordingly:

From: Jessica Hickok
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2011 10:21:57 -0500
To:
Subject: Re: Update on Parents

Toby:

You really should just stop. Your parent’s situation is fake and will never develop into a real estate sale for myself or any other REALTOR that you’ve sent this to.

Your name and your computer business is the topic of conversation across the country among REALTORS on blogs, websites, Facebook groups and on Twitter. Your name is not mentioned in good terms and you are infuriating a group of people who are very closely connected via social networking with your spammy e-mails. The best thing you could do to somewhat recover is send this same mass e-mail out to all REALTORS apologizing for leading us on with a possible sale, than to just come right out and pitch your product. Call it damage control, although I believe the damage done is too much to recover from. Nonetheless, any attempt at an apology is better than nothing. I truly believe that if you really did have parents who were successful in business, they would have never taught you to market your business this way.

With that said, please remove my name and e-mail address from any of your further shady marketing materials, tactics and techniques.

Jessica Hickok
Vice President of Operations
Dizmang Properties, Inc.
528 W. Battlefield, Suite 101
Springfield, MO 65807
(417) 887-0501 or Fax (417) 887-6934
www.getpaul.com

Locating a scam

We reached out to Grundtner on his various email accounts for a comment and never received a response, so we have not been able to verify whether he has parents, if they are looking to move or where they would move if they were house hunting.

Scam is likely a harsh word in this situation, as he isn’t running any Nigerian Prince money laundering scheme, but at a bare minimum, this is a shoddy marketing campaign for a computer repair company to email dozens of cities across the U.S. claiming his parents are moving to that agent’s location for loyalty (oh, and by the way, if you have computer needs, call me, wink wink).

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Sheri Moritz

    June 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I got this email too but had seen a post from Chris so I had a heads up to ignore.

  2. LesleyLambert

    June 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    <face palm> I don't know if scam is too harsh a word, but I think smarmy might fit the bill.

  3. Joe Loomer

    June 30, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I got the emails too – never responded to it – and he still sent the second one about the commmercial deal falling through. I think Lesley hit it on the head – "smarmy." Was going to share another word for it, but that's was the Sailor in me coming out so I figured I'd best leave it be….

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  4. Mike Mueller

    June 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    The guy in the picture is NOT Toby Grundtner – it's Dave Dugdale of learningdslrvideo.com as well as
    SolarDave.com
    RentVine.com
    PickRent.com
    DaveColorado.com

    • Lani Rosales

      June 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      The image has been replaced so as to avoid confusion. It was harder to find a CC image of a Nigerian prince hand washing money than I had anticipated! lol

  5. Randall Brennan

    June 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I got that, too, in the Denver area. Didn't respond, but I took a harsher view of his actions. He wants to connect to my computer remotely to "fix" things? No, thanks.

    I shudder to think what would happen should he find his way into my mother-in-law's inbox. She's always having some kind of computer — read "user" — problem, but doesn't want to burden us so much, so she seeks out her own solutions. I'm just waiting for the day she notices her bank account has been cleaned out.

  6. Ben K

    June 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I got the emails too, including their newsletter.

  7. Bill Wilson

    June 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    They're moving to Oklahoma too!

  8. Kristal Kraft

    June 30, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    And here I thought they were moving to Denver! hahaha What a joke! It felt scammy pretty quick. What's the point? I sure as heck would never let anyone who did this service my computers!

  9. Rainer

    June 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Great small town values like hard work, email spam, and lies!

    Don't give this guy any business: giving access to the computer can open the user up to viruses and key loggers. There are legit businesses that do this, but not this one.

  10. Jay Taylor

    July 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Bad marketing to say the least.

    BTW, I think the word smarmy got a bad wrap…it reminds me or marmalade and marmalade can be tasty.

  11. Matthew Hardy

    July 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    > Scam is likely a harsh word in this situation

    A fraudulent premise — a lie — to gain business, is a scam.

    From Wikipedia, a scam as "Confidence Trick":

    "A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is a trickster who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as greed, both dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, naïveté, and the thought of trying to get something of value for nothing or for something far less valuable. Con artists have victimized individuals from all walks of life."

  12. John Perkins

    July 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    "Highly rated on Angie’s List and BBB" – If this were true than Jessica should have not wasted time on the email but rather sent the info on through to Angies and the BBB to showcase who they are "associating with". That would put an end to some of his/her business quick by nixing him/her from those sites as they don't allow such false ads.

  13. Matthew Thomson

    July 3, 2011 at 9:43 am

    They got me…just went and "unliked" their page. Bummer, I thought they were coming to Gig Harbor.

  14. Ruthmarie Hicks

    July 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I feel left out….Although it may have been in the trash bin of my multiple discards. When people start talking about helping a relative move- whether it be parents or whatever – I tends to be suspect. When its combined with a marketing pitch it goes straight to spam.

  15. Joe Spake

    July 5, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Darn, I thought the folks were moving to Tennessee. Who thinks up these "clever" marketing schemes anyway?

  16. john

    July 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Oh wait, they're moving to Scottsdale, Arizona too! They must have loads of cash for all these homes they're buying!

  17. Linda DeVlieg

    July 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Hey, wait he's coming to Albuquerque! Yes, I used to see this pre-email days and I called it the 'makeup counter buyer'. I would go to a makeup counter to buy supplies, and all of a sudden guess who wanted to buy a house! The more I got to know them the more I realized that they say this to every Realtor who shops at their counter.

  18. Chuck Capan

    July 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    No worries…the parents are actually moving to Moline IL. Sorry for the confusion fellow REALTORS®…Closing is set for November 31st.

  19. Gerda LaGrasse

    July 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Darn, the parents were supposed to be moving to Schaumburg, Illinois. I'm not terribly dissapointed, as i left that marketplace about 6 YEARS ago and am currently selling gun holsters and concealed weapon accessories.

    I'm just a short drive from his Clearwater, Florida location.

    Hmmmm…. wonder if he'll visit?

  20. Linda DeVlieg

    July 29, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Gosh he's still sending out emails, now they are 'newsletters', let's see if his unsubscribe works.

  21. Daniel Koster

    January 6, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I know I’m really late to the conversation but this page was the #2 search result on Google while I was looking around for Mr Grundtner to see if I could find any info on whether he’s still in business or what he’s up to.

    I was one of those Microsoft Certified Technicians that worked for him and we did support quite a few real estate agents so I can understand pursuing that niche. I also knew that he had a pretty aggressive email marketing campaign, but wow! I had no idea that he was building contacts under such fraudulent auspices.

    I had terminated my subcontract status with him but the companies that I had a relationship with were constantly calling me direct and asking me to continue supporting them (and complaining that the Grundtners never returned calls). I try not to steal clients from the people I subcontract for so I worked out a deal with him to continue supporting some of his customers and never got paid for a particularly large project that he was prepaid for.

    Hence my typing his name into Google after reviewing some open invoices.

    And just an on topic FYI – Remote support is a real thing but it’s also a real danger. YouTube is full of videos of people who set up fake computers to show what the scammers do, and most of the time they put a password on the computer so that you’re locked out if you don’t pay by the end of the phone call. Ugh, I hate being associated with scum like that.

    So yeah, keep deleting crappy emails like this, never call a tech support number that comes from a popup on your screen, and if you do need help with your computer, ask around. All my business comes from personal recommendations and that’s the only way I’d want to work: You have to trust the person that gets remote access to your system (and usually livelihood, email, financial records, etc). And I have to trust that you’ll pay my invoice and not accuse me of deliberately sabotaging things 😉

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