SCAMS All Around You

It's no secret to those of us in Real Estate that scams are everywhere in our business. With easy access to non-Real Estate Web sites like Craigslist and when anyone can post a listing on Trulia or Zillow and claim that the listing is their listing--thieves and crooks find this too tempting to pass up. That's not to say that everything posted on one of these sites is fraudulent. Not all all, but if 1% or 5% or 10% are homes listed by someone who is not the rightful owner of the property, how do you know which one is and which one isn't really a proper listing?

I received a phone call this morning from a woman whose question to me was "Can this possibly be true? What is wrong with this house that it is so cheap?" I thought she was asking about the house that we have For Sale with multiple offers on it, but as it turns out, she was asking about the same house--but it was fraudulently listed on one of these open sites as being For Lease. The only problem is, the person who wrote this "too good to be true listing" is not the owner and has nothing to do with my client--the owner of the house. So, someone is trying to make some quick money at the expense of this family trying to find a place to live.

So, who was this person that listed the house on this open web site as being for lease? A thief. A scam artist. A Grifter. A person wanting to get $1100 in rent and $1100 in deposit money wired to his bank account in Alabama so he could take the money and run. Apparently he had a good cover story, but the "too good to be true" aspect of his offer caught him in his own trap. This lady did more research until she found my contact information for this house and called me to find out if this could possibly be true. "What is wrong with this house that is is listed so cheap?" Well, first of all, you are correct in thinking that $1100 for this house is too good to be true. This house would probably rent for twice that amount or more. Secondly, buying, selling, building or leasing Real Estate from people who are peddling their goods on the side of the internet road is never a good idea. You should be working with a licensed and experienced Realtor. This lady thought it would cost her money to use a Realtor and thought it would be cheaper to try to do this on her own. So, not only was she wrong in thinking she would have to pay a Realtor to help her find a home (to buy, lease or build), but it almost cost her $2200 that she would have never seen again. Gone in the time that it would take for her to put her bank account information into the wire transfer. Never to be seen again.

So, the good news for this family is that they did not send the money before they got more information about the listing--from me. They got lucky. Sadly, many people are not so lucky and just can't pass up what they think is a great deal. The lesson to be learned here is that while it may be fine to buy a used lawn mower online from someone selling down the street, trying to buy real estate on your own without professional assistance can be a very costly mistake.

This is not the first time I have run into this kind of scam. No, in fact, I get these calls more often than you would imagine. It is just the first time it has happened to me this year, on Jan. 4th. Crooks don't waste time in making their new year's resolutions come true. Neither should you. Hire a licensed REALTOR to help you with your home search.

BUYING, SELLING, BUILDING OR INVESTING, You should know what I know. 


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