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3 Real Estate Scams to Avoid


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!

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At Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP, our real estate lawyers have been offering legal representation for over 35 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.