Real Estate Scams and How to Avoid Them

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The accomplishment of purchasing a home or an investment property is already stressful and can take a considerate amount of time. Scam artists know this, and because of their weak moral fiber, they try to profit from this monument time in a person’s life. First time home owners and investors need to be aware that scams often happen in real estate because a lot of information is public record IE: name, address, parcel numbers. In this post we are going to discuss a scam that was recently attempted on one of our agents in Kansas City and wire fraud that has affective a lot of people in Tucson AZ lately.

The scam:
Brian our agent, received a notice in the mail stating that if he wanted to obtain the deed for an investment property he recently closed on he would need to: “Respond to the letter by Jan 31st, and pay the service fee of $87.”

The letter looked legitimate, had his name, the property address, and the parcel number. Like I said in the first paragraph, that is all public record and can easily be found on the county assessor web site. The timeline is given to make the victim feel as if he/she needs to make a rash decision and pay the fee. This scam is not centralized in Kansas City, and the attempts can be seen nationwide.

The Scam:
Information is being shared online, through emails and text messages, speeding up business, but making it easy for hackers to locate valuable information. Hackers are accessing email accounts through captured passwords, and then scanning for emails related to real estate transactions. They respond to the emails with new wiring instructions from the agent, title representative, or attorney. The home buyer unsuspectingly wires the funds to the hacker's account. Once the funds are sent they are not retrievable. 

How to avoid being a victim:
If you are a real estate agent you need to build a standard warning about wire scams into your e-mail signature, stating you will not discuss personal financial information over e-mail. Always use strong passwords and change them regularly, and advise your clients to do the same. Brokers should consider employing a staff member who’s responsible for monitoring, updating and implementing information security systems and procedures at your company. Millions of dollars have been lost because of wire fraud, it’s very easy to inform your clients about the danger. As a home buyer or investor, try to avoid free WIFI hotspots, speak with your agent on the phone to verify you have the correct account, and never share personal financial information over an e-mail.

What other scams have you seen recently? Please comment below so that we can be aware of the practices and help our clients avoid losing out on their hard-earned money.

Do your research, stay safe, and have a purposeful day

Title companies and closing attorneys have big blast at the bottom of every e mail.

we got hacked.. fake e mail from one of our vendors stating their account was changed please wire funds to new account.. we caught it..

now if one of our vendors has any change we get on the phone and verify.. if its a new title company we phone verify and I get on google maps look up the location.. then I will call the secretary who answer the phone and say..  " is that a mcdonalds on the corner  "  when I know its a burger king or some other land mark to test them  LOL.. they must think I am pretty weird..

the deed for 87 dollars I can see that working..

I bought some glass work in Venice once somehow it ended up in New York in their harbor and those dogs would not ship it  to me if I did not send them 100 bucks.. lol.. I did and I got the the glass piece I bought..

I am thinking we just may go back to old school  personal checks that clear the bank..

we went to cashiers checks years ago but then those were getting forged so closers would not take those and would only take wired funds..

but with the way lenders and folks work these days.. you would need docs in escrow 2 weeks in advance to let the checks clear through the banking system.. and they simply can't do that these days.. your lucky to get docs a day before closing.

Maybe there is something to the crypto currency.

but keep warning folks its post like these that will help the community.

ALWAYS verify, in person or by phone that the wire info is correct. Look up their company online to make sure you are actually speaking with them, and not a FRAUD AND SCAMMER that sent you a bogus phone number.

Always close through a title company or other professional that can do title verification.

NEVER SEND MONEY TO A LENDER FIRST. Legitimate lenders will take fees at closing. Beware those offering rates substantially below market.

If you read the fine print it says right on it that it’s an advertisement. It is made to look official but read it closely.

This beauty of this “scam” is that it gets people to pay $87 for something that is FREE.

I got a fraudulent email just yesterday with ‘new wire instructions’. I called my title company immediately to verify. Turns out the title company had been hacked and someone was sending/receiving emails with their addresses.

Had a feeling it was a scam because:

- spelling and grammar was a little off.
- bank account name I had never heard of.
- they were asking for the money ‘asap’ even though closing isn’t for 4 more days.

I used to get annoyed about the Secure Message Center that a lot of banks use to send confidential emails. But now I understand how important it is to be safe with sensitive information.

Double check everything verbally!!

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