Two weeks ago, I wrote about the ongoing land scams involving fraudulent listings that take advantage of vulnerable consumers seeking affordable property. This week I want to revisit other ways to remain vigilant in real estate transactions. Sadly, crimes involving real estate have been prevalent for years, and as many real estate searches and transactions have moved online, the chances of being caught up in a cyber scam have become even greater. As a service to other realtors and our community, here are a few tips to help keep a watchful eye against different types of real estate fraud:
Use reputable listing platforms.
When looking for properties online, use a reputable listing platform like the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These systems have strict verification processes to ensure that listings are legitimate. Avoid using small or obscure websites that may not have the resources to verify listings or detect fraud.
Verify the listing information. Before making any payments, verify the information provided in the listing. For example, check the property’s address and confirm it exists using Google Maps or a similar tool. Also, verify the property’s ownership by conducting a public records search. If the seller claims to be a real estate agent or broker, verify their license with the state’s regulatory board.
Be wary of upfront payments. Scammers often ask for upfront payments, such as a deposit or processing fee, before allowing potential buyers to view the property. Be wary of such requests and never make any payments without verifying the legitimacy of the listing and the seller.
Check for red flags. Be on the lookout for red flags that may indicate a fraudulent listing. For instance, a seller unwilling to provide additional information about the property or insists on communicating only via email or text may be a red flag. Also, be wary of sellers who ask for personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account details.
Use a trusted real estate agent. If you’re unsure about a property or seller, consider using a trusted real estate agent to help you navigate the process. Real estate agents have experience and expertise in identifying red flags and can help you verify the legitimacy of a listing.
Report suspected scams. If you come across a suspicious listing or believe you have been the victim of a land listing scam, report it to the relevant authorities. You can report real estate scams to the FTC (www.ftc.gov), or your state’s attorney general’s office.
Criminals know that there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to real estate transactions. That’s why it’s important to trust the expertise of a realtor when conducting business. Realtors work with clients every day and help guide them through the homebuying process safely. That’s Who We R.