Real Estate scams – what you need to know

Canopy often sends out general “caution” notices to the membership when we are alerted of a potential new real estate scam.  In recent months, the frequency of these reports has grown and real estate scams appear to be more prevalent with scammers becoming more and more creative.

Real Estate scams have been around for years.  Nearly every agent is aware of, and most have taken steps to reduce exposure to wire fraud, cybercrime and phishing scams.  Most agents also know of, or have at least heard stories about fake buyers, fake listings and rental scams.  While the majority of agents likely feel they would never fall prey to these types of scams, it is more important now than ever to avoid jumping blindly into a potential relationship with an unknown “client”.

Scams involving fake sellers and buyers have been covered in the media and recent reports from our own members show that these scammers are also hitting our market area.  These “buyers” and “sellers” can be hard to spot if you don’t know what to look for.

From the reports we have received, it appears that some of these scammers will claim that they are not local but are either looking to purchase a property in the area or are selling a property in the area and are in need of a listing agent.  Seller scammers will generally provide accurate information about the property and will give, as their name, the owner’s full name as reflected in the tax records.

While it is unclear the ultimate goal of fake buyers, some local agents have reported encountering fake buyers who have gone so far as to produce fake, but very realistic-looking, proof of fund letters.  Some agents have even submitted offers on behalf of these fake buyers, which were ultimately accepted by a seller.

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission recently posted information about fake buyers and sellers which provides real life scenarios and tips to protect yourself.  Click to read their “Fake-Seller, Fake-Buyer Scam Alert”.

Remember, your safety is of the utmost importance and putting specific safety measures in place is paramount.  When contacted by someone looking to buy or sell a home, be sure to perform your own due diligence prior to heading out to view a property alone or prior to meeting an unknown individual at a property for a showing. While it may take more time out of your day to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate lead, it is a small price to pay when you think about the alternative.