Real Estate Scam Alert

You have just found the perfect house and the price is just perfect. You pay for everything and the agent gives you the keys but later on you discover you were swindled and it is too late to act. However do not be hopeless. The scammers always have tell signs and it is important you know what to look out for so that you do not become a victim.

It’s unfortunate but true: Scammers, posing as would-be cash buyers, are out there. And these all-cash home sale scammers are hoping to swindle sellers — and their agents — out of their hard-earned cash.

Scam #1: The buyer

The buyer is foreign

The fact that this buyer is foreign — and wants to buy the home sight unseen — is a red flag. Why? Most people want to see a property (or at least have their agent see it) before buying or at least be somewhat familiar with the area. This scammer doesn’t, isn’t, and probably won’t even ask questions about the property.

China and Canada have been popular choices in this scam for some reason, but the scammer could say they’re from any country. Foreign checks often take longer to clear, and the buyer’s foreignness could explain why an email would be riddled with typos.


The buyer is unavailable

Because of the time difference, this cash buyer — in perfect catfish style — can’t make in-person phone calls to speak with you or the attorney. Instead, the buyer asks you to contact the attorney on their behalf. If you did speak with this person, you might discover that they don’t sound Chinese (or Canadian or whatever). And they’re probably afraid of being traced.

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No one is immune to being scammed. These scammers get smarter and ensure that they are ten miles ahead of you. The crooks look so good and cover their tracks so well but if you want to stay safe then don’t be in a rush. Take your time. You can save yourself a lot of misery by just waiting. The players are many; the trail of scammers is immense.

You’d be foolish to think you couldn’t be fooled in a real estate transaction. While the majority of sellers, buyers and renters are presumably honest, there can be additional players with skin in the game, from landlords and real estate agents to title agency workers and bankers.

As Sacramento real estate broker Alexis Moore observes: “The crooks don’t always have on orange jump suits. Many are former real estate professionals who are using the system.”

Don’t rush. Sometimes, you really do stumble into a great deal, and, yes, you want to act quickly before someone else stumbles on – and snags – this great deal. But rushing means you have little time to question what you’re doing.

Joe Rand, managing partner for Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, which sells and rents home in New York and New Jersey, says that about once a week, he hears of a renter who saw a house but didn’t actually go inside.

“The person will tell the renter that they’ve relocated, they need to rent [the property] quickly, here’s a photo. Just go look at the place, but I can’t show you the inside,” Rand says. The renter will send the “landlord” deposit money and show up at one of his business’s many offices, asking for the keys. Of course, that’s when the renter learns he was working with a con artist who had simply taken a photo of an apartment and let the victim’s imagination fill in the blanks.

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The scammers do their work via emails. They know who is involved in a sale. They hack your email account, monitor the flow of your conversations and wait for the perfect time to strike.

Intricate email scams targeting people involved in the sale of residential real estate have increased over the past year.

Here’s how the scam starts: A crook first hacks the email account of someone involved in a real estate transaction. This can be the buyer, seller, lawyers, real estate agents or bankers.

Then the hacker monitors the communications regarding the progress of the real estate sale. When the time is right, posing as one of the lawyers or the bank mortgage officer, the scammer will email the buyer, telling him or her to wire funds necessary to complete the sale to the phony lawyer’s or banker’s account provided in the email.

Everything appears normal, so the unsuspecting buyer wires the money to the thief, who then launders the funds by moving the money from account to account to make it difficult to trace.

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