It can be a scary world out there. While the majority of people are good and honest, a few bad apples always try to take advantage of others.
Unfortunately, the real estate market is no different. Today I wanted to let you know about some real estate scams I’ve become aware of recently:
1. The mortgage closing scam. This scam is spreading across the country. It has become so prevalent that the FBI estimates it has led to over $1 billion in stolen or diverted funds in 2017 alone. It starts when hackers gain access to a real estate agent’s email account. Then, when it’s time to close a deal, the hackers, posing as the real estate agent, send instructions to the homebuyer on where to wire the money.
Of course, it is only after the buyer has sent thousands of dollars to an unknown bank account that the truth comes out—the real estate agent wasn’t actually the one reaching out, and the buyer has been scammed.
2. Fake real estate lawyers. This scam is similar to the first one, in that the scammers will impersonate somebody legitimately involved with a deal. In this case, the hackers will impersonate a real estate lawyer who is associated with a particular home sale.
Then, at the time of closing, they will contact the buyer, either by email or over the phone, and tell them the wire destination has been changed. If this scam works, the homebuyer could again be out thousands of dollars.
3. The bait-and-switch. Unlike the first two scams, this scam targets sellers. It also doesn’t require any hacking or impersonation—just a dishonest buyer. Here’s how it works: A buyer makes an offer that’s well above the listed price, the seller happily agrees, and the contract is signed.
But then, the buyer starts procrastinating, making excuses, and dragging out the process for months or even a year. In the meantime, the seller continues to pay costs for the home, and is getting more and more emotionally worn out. In the end, the unscrupulous buyer flatly says they can only buy the home at a lower price, usually under the listed price. And the seller, desperate by now, frequently agrees.
So, how can you protect yourself against these and other scams?
For one thing, avoid sending account information over email. Confirm everything over a phone call (to a number that you already know to be valid)—or even better, in person. And ultimately, find a real estate agent you trust to represent your best interests.
If you are ever in need of a trustworthy real estate agent, my doors are always open. If you have any other questions or you are interested in buying or selling a home, don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you.