Beware of Real Estate Scammers Rushing You to Sign


In a story released today by USA Today, we learned about a new fraud that had been taking place in Virginia, where investors were tricked into signing documents to purchase properties that had been appraised at inflated values.

Countrywide Financial, who is suing the man who allegedly orchestrated the fraud, Robert Penn, “claims the defendants duped their victims by inviting them to take part in either an “investment opportunity” or a “real estate investment club.”

The lawsuit alleges the paperwork that truck drivers, retirees, factory workers and others in or around Martinsville, Va., signed eventually made them “straw borrowers” liable for bogus loans for one or more homes obtained by submitting false mortgage applications.

The victims were not given copies of the “investment” documents and were rushed into signing them after being told they needed to be quickly delivered to Indianapolis, the lawsuit claims.

“The straw borrowers were not asked to read the documents they signed, and in some cases were told there was no time for such a read, or that it was unnecessary,” the lawsuit states.

There are hundreds of legitimate real estate investment clubs that serve to educate and assist investors, but this story should serve as a warning to be careful when dealing with all potential investment opportunities.


If someone rushes you to sign something before they let you have a look at it, they are probably not having you sign something you want to sign. This may seem obvious, but any legitimate person you will deal with understands the importance of due diligence, and will give you adequate time to review any related documents and paperwork.

Be careful America . . .

About Author

Joshua Dorkin

Joshua Dorkin (@jrdorkin, Google+) founded when he saw a need for free, trustworthy information about real estate investing online. Over the past 12 years, Josh has grown the site from self-funded hobby to full-time job and passion. Today, BiggerPockets brings together over 600,000 members, housing the world’s largest library of real estate content, iTunes’ #1 real estate podcast, and an array of analysis tools, all geared toward helping users succeed.


  1. I am amazed at how many people sign without reading. I sit and carefully explain real estate contracts to first time home buyers who blow by the details and sign on the dotted line. Then their are the seniors that I work with, I layout various senarios and in the end they say that they want to do what ever I recommend. I think people are itimidated my our real estate and loan contracts and just kind of freeze. Kind of like how I skip the details when I get the numbers and letters about my various investment accounts.

  2. Hey Teresa! I must admit that at my first property purchase signing, I skipped through most of the paperwork, but I was very careful about who represented me (great references). That said, I learned soon afterwards how important it is to read what you sign.

    . . . and, I think most people also skip the details when it comes to their stock accounts. I think it is a case of “why read this if I don’t fully understand what I’m reading”

  3. We have a saying, “If they are shouting or rushing one of two things has happened: Either one of the parties has themselves in a tight financial predicament or one of the parties (or more) is committing fraud and hope that by pushing you the fraud will go undetected”.

    Click on my name above and read “We Call It The Screamer Factor”

  4. It is only going to get worse. Real estate fraud is increasing and consumers could get hurt by it. Look at this article from yesterday –

    I have an offer related to over-inflated values because of fraud – post an address and I will provide an analysis with “red flags” if they exist. There are two types of mortgage/real estate fraud – fraud for housing and fraud for profit. Fraud for housing means there is a misrepresentation (employment, income) so the person can get financing to buy the property.

    Fraud for profit means the person(s) are driven purely by profit motives and have no interest in the property for themselves. You can avoid this but you need help in identifying it. Don’t buy a property with an over-inflated value. Provide an address and I’ll prove it.

  5. Steve,

    This property scored fairly low on the fraud/risk meter. It got a 2 (0 is low risk, 25 is very high risk) which indicates that there are some “flags”. We analyzed 35 nearby sales that have occured during the last 14 months. Of these, 8 (approx. 23%) of these properties have been in foreclosure at one time or another during the last three years. This neighborhood (using the same 35 properties) has experienced has experienced 69% sales price appreciation during the last three years. This begs the question: why would someone allow their property to go into foreclsosure if the price values have gone up that high and they can seemingly sell the property even at a lower price? The average price is $101,000 and the median is $103,000 so it would depend on what the sales price of this property is to call it a “good buy”. Also, the property is located fairly close to a major freeway which would affect current and future value.

    Bottom line – It doesn’t look real bad in terms of risk but the market does seem to be volatile and I would look closer at the market metrics before making a decision as a new buyer. Hope this is helpful.

  6. hey feel that my so called partners pulled and used me for a fast buck when i purchased a investment property they where going to be on the paperwork with me , we even sighned a paper saying so . they also received money at closing on a third loan. problem is I ended up on the house alone with them helping paying morgage, but i feel they arent going to be paying for long and some how they desighned my loan to say i can support this by myself. even with renting it i am very short on the morgage. everybody is paying right now, but i would like to know what i can do incase they drop out and i am holding a bag that i can not hold. my fear is losing my credit.

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