I recently was working on a listing for a nice young couple from my former hometown. They had asked me if I would list their property after they had tried for several months to sell it privately. The catch was, they first wanted to wait to see if a private deal they had secured would come to fruition. They were waiting for a cheque in the mail from a man from overseas who had expressed interest in their property and had promised to send a "deposit". Well, the day that we (my partner in real estate) and I were to go list, they got that cheque in the mail. They canceled our listing appointment, but still wanted us to do the paperwork for the transaction.
After several questions about the private deal, we learned that:
RED FLAG #1: the man had sent a very large cheque which he wanted the young couple to cash and then send back half of so that his "financier" and his "investment partner"could fly to Canada and view the property first hand.
RED FLAG#2. The man claimed that he was from England, yet the postmark was from a different country.
RED FLAG#3. The cheque looked legitimate they said, but was missing a return address and the man had provided no contact information for himself.
After gently insisting to the unknowing couple that they were possibly in the middle of a money laundering scheme and providing them contact information for Phonebusters, they decided that they would go with another REALTOR®.
Disappointing??? Not in the least. I would much prefer to work with clients who trust that I am a professional and give credit to the high standards that a REALTOR® must adhere to (which now in Canada includes being aware of and reporting possible suspicious transactions, among our many other roles).
Do I hope they cash that cheque?? Of course not. It is devastating to be a victim of fraud and I would not wish that upon anyone. Do I hope they will report it and find out for themselves or check online to see that it may be an integration technique of money laundering? Absolutely!
As REALTORS®, our role in the real estate transaction seems to be growing daily. We must be aware of financing options, property structures and condition, techniques to determine market analysis, market trends, changes in zoning and future developments, the state of the economy and now money laundering techniques too??? There shouldn't be a professional REALTOR® out there who can't justify the commission they charge... we are the multitasking bargain of the day if you ask me!
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