Special offer

Have You Ever Been Scammed?

Real Estate Agent with Village Properties

Sounds like the title of a song.... Well this one isn't set to music!

So about the beginning of August I received an email inquiring about property.  Buyer is working in China and coming back to the US to retire and wants to live in my community.  Gives reasonable requirements and states that he will be in my town last week of September. 

I reply that I'd be delighted to be of service to him and his family, and that I'll be sending him information through our MLS/IDX.  To let me know which homes he is interested in. We do this several times and I now have him educated on price range and on the escrow process ask him to send the $$ into escrow by wire.

He puts me in touch with his Finacial Manager in Montreal, Canada and choses a property to make an offer on.  Wants to have a home inspection completed and the usual contingencies, but not upon his physical viewing the property. His Manager is to send me a Cashier's check for $350,000, made out to the Title Company.

As a sidebar:  I Googled his China employer and banker and found reasonable websites. My skepticism antennae was raised with the China thing and that someone who is retiring would be interested in a "good middle school". Buyer calls me (through an operator) from China to make sure I had heard from Banker.

I send him the contract by way of Zip Forms and wait for its return. I had kept the Listing Agent informed of a potential buyer. We have some glitches with the scanning, signing and sending... Waiting for some missing pages and I request that he spell his name under his signature and supply complete contact information.

Meantime I email the listing agent that I finally have the offer minus a couple of pages which are being resent, how and when do we present?

Listing Agent emails me that "Oh gosh...we accepted another offer last night!  And it was also from a Buyer from China...who docu-signed." What a co-incidence.

Unraveling showed that same Mr. China had made an offer with another Broker (maybe I asked too many questions) for more $$ and had used docu-sign. I don't think Mr. China realized what a small community we are and how closely our MLS members work together!

There's more to this story...but the $$$ never arrived for the offer with the other Broker.  A check to me did...but on verifying with Citibank it was not "authorized for deposit". Unfortunately the Seller thought he had his property sold...to a cash buyer!

Why would someone go through this much trouble....what is there to gain.  On checking it seems that often too much money is sent, and a rebate is requested.  Accusations that the check was cashed and the money has not been returned...on and on.

We agents and Sellers are thrilled to have buyers...especially cash buyers these days.  The legitimate Buyers are immediately identifiable...the scammers aren't always. We can't always tell...but it is good to follow our well-honed instincts and check and double check.  I learned a long time ago:  A buyer who buys, buys every step of the way...until close.  If questions aren't answered...and things don't make sense...be aware!

For more information about real estate scams:  http://homesteadtitle.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/real-estate-scam-warning/

Posted by

Carla B. Reeves, REALTOR


John Pusa
Glendale, CA

Carla - I receive similar emails, but I don't respond to them. However, I have been scammed in differed ways.

Oct 05, 2010 05:32 PM
Carla Reeves
Village Properties - Santa Barbara, CA

Hi John,

If you don't respond you won't know if this is a real buyer response.  That's one of the the objectives of my website...to attract potential clients.  I have actually had some great buyers come to me this way. 

Oct 06, 2010 06:40 AM
Stella Barbour
NoVa Brokers LLC - Vienna, VA
Principal Broker, Serving Virginia and Maryland

I get emails like that and I forward them to the FBI with a copy to them so they see I mean business,

Oct 06, 2010 12:40 PM
Carla Reeves
Village Properties - Santa Barbara, CA

Thanks for your response Stella.  You are of course correct.  However, the initial emails were very believable and needed a professional response until the $$ didn't come in.


Oct 06, 2010 02:47 PM
Christine L
Property Cupid, LLC - Chandler, AZ

Weird.  I wonder what they gained from this? I too answer emails from all over as over half my clients are out of state or country.  I guess you can never take things at face value.

Oct 09, 2010 05:25 PM