Real estate professionals have enough to keep track of in their day-to-day lives and shouldn’t have to worry about malicious scammers trying to catch them in a distracted moment.
Unfortunately, Realtors® must remain vigilant of scammers to protect themselves and their clients. In today’s market, deception can be hiding behind situations even when they don’t seem “too good to be true”.
Take a look at the types of scams facing real estate pros today. Some of what’s below are specific case studies, and some are generalized. All deserve attention as you work to remain safe from these threats.
REMEMBER: IF YOU ARE THE VICTIM OF A SCAM, YOUR FIRST CALL SHOULD ALWAYS BE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT.
IF ANY PART OF A CRIME WAS COMMITTED OVER THE INTERNET, PLEASE FILE A REPORT WITH THE FBI’S INTERNET CRIME COMPLAINT CENTER.
ValleyMLS has received reports on a local fraudster making offers on homes, signing sales contracts, then cutting all contact. The reporting agent had an instance in their office where an individual went under contract, said they were delivering earnest money, never did, used a fake proof of funds, then stopped communication. The real estate office was never able to verify the funds letter because the contact number led to a voicemail that was never answered.
Rent to Own Properties
ValleyMLS has received reports on scams involving rent-to-own properties. A prospective renter wired money to who they thought was a property owner, but lost contact soon after. They have since filed a police report with little hope of getting their money back. See the screenshot of the website where the victim of the scam found the fraudulent listing below.
The scam typically involves vacant land that is owned outright. The scammer locates a property through public records, impersonates the owner, and lists the property for sale, usually as a FSBO, for a price below market value. Many of these false listings appear on third party sites, but some are listed with brokerages in order to get the listing on the MLS.
HAAR has been made aware of a scam that, as of time of publication, has yet to reach our region. The scam targets unencumbered, vacant lots owned by persons out of state. With this scam, real estate licensees may be contacted by a person acting as the seller seeking to have a vacant lot promptly sold for below market value.
We’ve received reports of several home inspectors receiving texts from a scammer purporting to be a homebuyer, wanting to conduct a “pre-inspection”. They claim they have already been in contact with the seller and have permission to access the property.
A listing agent recently reported that they were scammed into listing a property for someone who was not who they claimed to be. The owner of the property passed away and the listing agreement was signed via Dotloop using the deceased’s name. When out-of-the-ordinary situations like this occur, always go the extra mile to investigate claims that may seem odd.
Cash Investor Helping Low-Income Buyer
A scam artist recently acted as an all-cash investor, supposedly interested in helping low income buyers find a home for a $5,000 down payment. Thankfully, when the buyer tried to wire $5,000 to the scammer, the recipient’s account was flagged as fraudulent.
Scam artists routinely send fraudulent texts and emails, pretending to be the recipient’s employer, a colleague, or the President of HAAR. They can’t talk on the phone and can only communicate via text. It’s a scam.
Scammers like to post rentals – or sometimes homes for sale – on marketplace websites like Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and more. They usually can only communicate through text messages and ask for money up front. If a property owner or seller can’t meet you in person, it’s a scam.