A fellow Realtor called me a few days ago to warn me of the resurgence of a REO real estate scam I described in an earlier blog I was almost Scammed A REO Scam. This is where a company/caller lies to you saying they have 2 pre-REO properties in their queue that they need a sales agent for. But of course you have to pay to join their system. And of course they have noting to do with those properties. But lately there has been a number of other sophisticated real estate scams.
The Craig' List Scam:
Almost every real estate agent is familiar with the Craig's List rental scam. But the public may not be. This is where scammers steal Realtor photos of property for sale and re-post the photos as a house for rent. The scammers usually price the rental below market. They cleverly say that since their Realtor hasn't sold it yet they want to rent it. They further explain that they haven't told the Realtor yet so please not to tell them. Their usual instructions are to send a money order out of the country since they are traveling for the World Health Organization or other international company. Luckily most renters are smart enough to call the Realtor and/or not send money out of the country.
Famous Person Scam:
I received an email last month where the vice president of EY or Ernest Young wanted to buy 1 of my upper end listings. His email came with a picture of him in his email signature. He wanted me to call him in Belgium on Tuesday to discuss it. I noticed his email came from email@example.com, not from the company server. A major clue this was a scam. I cordially replied:
" Can you please email me back a picture of yourself holding up 2 fingers in the universal peace sign, being sure to show your fingers and face. That way I can verify that it is you. There is so much fraud in this world, I’m sure you can understand my precautions."
He didn't, what was the scam? I didn't bother to find out. But most likely due to other similar inquiries I have received, it usually has to do with them requesting bank account wiring information to send their deposit.
The Email Virus Scam:
This one comes in many forms but the recent one is really clever. The scammers take the email and email signature of a local agent and email the other agents in the area to open the link or link embedded pdf for an offer. Because it comes from a local agent it almost seems legit.
The Kindly Scam:
This scam is not just a real estate scam. Not really a scam in itself. Kindly is a clue. As soon as i see someone is "kindly asking for my assistance" or "kindly inquiring". I kindly think Nigerian scam and kindly delete that email.
The Wiring Account Number Has Changed:
I have not yet encountered this scam personally. But it's made the national news. This is when the "escrow/title company" emails you new wiring accounts numbers to send your closing funds. But the email is not from the escrow company, but from a scammer. On the news show I saw, the consumer was pissed that he had to call his bank to stop the current wire and resend a new one in the morning. This would delay closing by a day. Luckily he was so pissed he called escrow who said there was no change in wiring instructions. WTF? He almost lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It's a shame that agents and consumers have to be so scam and fraud cautious in today's society. A few good rules to keep safe are:
1. Don't send money out of the country.
2. Don't give out your bank account number.
3. Don't open email links unless you are expecting it.
4. If you are wiring money to escrow confirm the wiring account number with your escrow company.
5. Play it safe. I feel scammed every time my time is wasted by someone trying to scam me. But it could be a lot worse.
Real Estate Scams are on the rise and becoming cleverer and more sophisticated. They play on the hungry real estate agent and trusting consumer. As agents we need to protect ourselves and the public from these scams that can be not just irritating but devastating to an unsuspecting renter or homeowner.