Fraud scams are common in real estate. Today I want to discuss three of the most popular scams that you might encounter in the business.
1. Wiring instructions. In a real estate transaction, purchases usually involve the wiring of money from one account to another. At some point, you’re going to receive wiring instructions, most likely from the closing attorney, asking you to wire your down payment or closing funds to their accounts. Most of the time, this is fine. However, there are people out there that are trying to fake this information so that you wire your funds to their account and the attorney will never see it. You’re money is gone; there’s no way to get it back.
They’ll send you an email disguised as though it’s coming from your attorney and agent, asking you to wire your funds to an account. They provide instructions that don’t link back to a safe account, and when you execute that wire, they take off with the money.
To avoid falling prey to this type of scam, be wary of any suspicious emails. Never deliver any secure or sensitive information like your bank account or social security number via unencrypted email. It’s always best to do that either over the phone or in person. If it’s necessary to do it by email, make sure that it’s encrypted. Most real estate attorneys are using that type of service to protect your information from being fished out of the internet.
2. Fake listings for the sale or renting of your home. This one is kind of strange. People will create a listing for your home to either sell or rent. They’ll post it on a site like Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist. Craigslist is particularly popular, since the site lacks security. Unsuspecting buyers and tenants will fall for it—the price on it is usually too good to be true—and send money for deposits to lock that property up.
All this is happening without you knowing it. To avoid this, you can use the Google Alerts tool. You can set one up for your home address and whatever other property you own, and whenever someone posts something on the internet containing that information, you’ll receive an email. You’ll be able to know immediately what is being posted and where.
3. Two-step verification scam. This is where someone sends you an email asking you to click on a link to reset some account information like a password. Then it will tell you to text a number to get a code. By doing this, you’re giving them access to your phone and all your contacts.
The bottom line is to look out for things that don’t seem to add up. To be certain about something, pick up the phone and call your real estate agent or attorney to confirm. Don’t click on suspicious links or deliver sensitive information electronically.
If you have any questions about real estate frauds or other topics, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be glad to provide you with whatever information I can.