Better Watch Out................
In uncertain economic times the number and the type of scams out there has probably always increased - it is just the method the scammer uses that has changed.
By now we all know that a foreign government official contacting us about a long lost relative who died overseas and left us 8 million dollars is a scam. We know that the companies that send us a check and want us to send part of it back to them are fraudsters. We surely all know that we cannot make money being the receiving agent for an overseas company that desperately needs an agent in the US to handle their business. Then there are all those somewhat official looking emails from mainstream banks and companies that just need you to respond to them. Guess what they want? Be sure to check who you are emailing back to. Learn how to check who is really behind th email address you are responding to. Those scams are all getting pretty old and most people are aware of them. However, a new scam is born everyday and being cautious is just part of using the internet these days.
The "work at home and make lots of money" scammers are in overdrive. Be sure to use common sense. No one is going to pay you legitimate money to stay home and work 3 hours per day. Usually those scams involve you signing up for their "web services" to the tune of $30 dollars a month or more. Try getting that refunded on your credit card!
How does this relate to Real Estate? Well there are several scams that are popping up that you need to know about. Some involve outright scams akin to these I have just mentioned others are just unqualified and unskilled people giving bad advice for a fee.
Rentals: When calling, emailing or even going in person to a prospective rental property you MUST know who owns the property. It may not be the person you are contacting. Once you turn over a deposit in cash or certified funds you are out that money if you do not know who you are dealing with. Check with the city or county and verify ownership. Ask the person you are giving your funds to to prove that they are the owner and even show you their id. Never, ever, ever send money to someone you have only talked to on the internet. It would not hurt to go to the neighborhood and talk to any of the neighbors you see and make sure that there is not a problem with the house you are looking at. Neighbors always know what is going on next door.
Credit/Mortgage Help: Sadly, as the economic situation gets more and more press there are boatloads of new businesses springing up to help you modify your home loans, reduce your credit card debt or help you avoid foreclosure on your property. It really is buyer beware with these services. Of course some are very legitimate and run by people who are expert in their fields. They know this business and are very qualified to help you. But as an unregulated industry there are many people that see this as their next get rich opportunity. Your fiscal health is very low on their priority list. They are looking out for their bottom line not yours. Finally, there are some well intentioned people who really do want to help you but are simply unqualified. Do your research find out who are the people you are considering paying to help you - what are their qualifications? What are they going to do and what is their background in this field? Consulting a good attorney - bankruptcy, real estate or both - may be your best option.
It is important to realize that there is no quick fix. No pill that you can take and in the morning all your credit woes and mortgage problems will be over. Short sales, foreclosures and delinquent credit card debt can take a longtime to work out. Months perhaps even a year. There will be uncomfortable calls with creditors and mortgage bankers. There is no one who can wipe the slate clean for any fee and put your life back in order in a few short weeks. If someone is promising you this that is your first red flag. There are consequences to not paying your obligations in a timely manner. If anyone tells you that they can make that all go away, you just heard another red flag.
On a daily basis in my Real Estate business I have to caution people that I am not an attorney or a CPA. I have general knowledge of those fields as they pertain to real estate transactions but for precise information on your specific situation I always recommend that you consult the appropriate professional. While this is not always convenient and not always the lowest cost route to take it is by far the most prudent. It is also a benchmark for you to as you talk to any of the debt/mortgage./credit people. As soon as they start dispensing legal or financial advice ask yourself "are they fully qualified in that field?" You will probably save yourself lots of grief by making sure that the person dispensing advice to you is qualified to do so.