Purchasing or renting a home can be one of the most exciting and stressful
experiences in your life. Unfortunately, when such a large amount of money
is involved, you’re likely to attract some questionable characters.
Your best defense against creative real estate crooks is to be aware of
the scams being played on hopeful homebuyers nationwide.
Scam #1: The Impersonation Game
In the last few years, hackers and scam artists have been targeting the
unprotected email accounts of real estate agents, escrow agents, and
real estate lawyers. These real estate representatives are constantly on the go, and often
depend on the convenience of public Wi-Fi to do business. However, this
creates many opportunities for unscrupulous criminals to access their
private emails and client correspondences. A hacker can email you while
impersonating your agent and trick you into wiring your closing funds
to an untraceable account.
It’s also not uncommon for scam artists to impersonate real estate
agents and sell unavailable or occupied property. These imitators place
fake ads on legitimate Internet real estate websites by using an actual
agent’s credentials. To a buyer or renter, the process appears to
be legal until the deposit is wired.
To avoid these scenarios, it’s important to stay in contact with
your real estate representatives, and get verbal confirmations before
wiring money or accepting any account changes. Don’t use emails
as your sole method of communication, either, as this leaves you vulnerable
to scam artists.
Scam #2: Duplicate Listings
Another common set-up is when scam artists repost legitimate real estate
listings at cheaper prices. Many excited homebuyers and renters fall prey
to these fake listings, and wire payments to untraceable accounts. When
buyers don’t receive any additional correspondence, they inevitably
hunt down the actual real estate agents who can only direct them to the police.
The best way to avoid this situation is to hire reputable real estate agents
and real estate lawyers to protect your finances. Also, it’s important
to trust yourself and pay attention to red flags. For example, if a company
or homeowner claims you can’t view the property prior to a sale,
it’s likely a scam. Don’t complete a purchase if you aren’t
comfortable with how a sale is progressing.
Scam #3: The Unlicensed Realtor
In this scam, fake realtors sell property to buyers and deposit the escrow
checks into their own accounts. It’s easy for scam artists and formerly
licensed real estate agents to mimic having the appropriate credentials.
With so much money and your future home on the line, it’s important
to research real estate agents beyond their websites and LinkedIn accounts.
This goes for real estate agents on both sides of the sale!
Schedule a Free Consultation
At Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP, our real estate lawyers have been
offering legal representation for over 25 years. Contact our firm if you’re
a homeowner or property renter looking for attorneys who are trial-tested
and effective negotiators.
Call Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP
at (888) 998-2031 to schedule your case evaluation.