How to Avoid Getting Scammed in Real Estate

Scammers are Getting Smarter

Unfortunately, you’ve probably received phishing emails, had your social media account hacked or your credit card compromised. But most likely you were able to spot the scammer or quickly resolve the issue. But with the thriving real estate market, criminals are targeting home buyers, sellers and renters.

One such incident hit close to home. Shortly after Thanksgiving 2017, Broker/Owner Ali St. Cyr avoid internet real estate frauddiscovered that one of her listings in South Tampa was posted on Craigslist as a rental opportunity using stolen images and content. The 3 bed/2 bath home with a large lot in a great area was being advertised as a rental for $800/month – quite a steal!

We’ve Got Your Back!

As people interested in renting the home at a deep discount poured in to Open House viewings and contacted Ali via her yard sign info, she knew she had to act fast.

“I constantly look after my clients like they’re family and if I ever see anything that could negatively impact them, I take immediate action to protect them – even when it’s not part of my real estate responsibilities,” Ali said. “We caught it early enough and feel that we have done what we can at this point to stop any further inquiries to rent the home. My clients do feel victimized because someone was looking to take advantage of their attractive listing.”

Ali, her team and the Tomlin St Cyr Real Estate Services executive team acted swiftly:

  • TSC reported the listing to Craigslist, where it was taken down in less than 24 hours
  • Ali immediately notified the homeowner and reported the listing to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Hillsborough County Police
  • The key is reporting the scam as quickly as possible and to continue to check on the home often to ensure that no suspicious activity is going on

“I knew I needed to report this for a few reasons,” Ali said. “First, I want to warn other agents to be vigilant of the activity at their listings so they can protect their clients from a scam like this. This means having a presence at the home and monitoring content online. Second, to warn renters against these types of scams and encourage them to do their research on the home and the agent. My business is built on the trust I have with my clients. If you see my sign on the lawn, please call and I will gladly clear up any doubts you have regarding a property.”

Protect Yourself

internet securityHere are just a few examples of real estate scams and how you can avoid them:

  1. Renting a home that doesn’t exist or is not for rent. A simple Google search of the property address or inquiry on the county’s property appraiser’s website will give you relevant info such as the owner’s name, price and tax history and the listing agent.
  2. The moving company holds your belongings for ransom. When buying or selling a home, moving furniture is part of the equation. It can be expensive and stressful – worrying about broken valuables or in extreme cases, having your items stolen or held hostage for more money than originally agreed upon. Here’s how you can prevent this:
    • Research moving companies and make sure they have a satisfactory rating from the Better Business Bureau.
    • Get written estimates that include all labor, weight and volume of items.
    • Confirm and ask for proof of insurance; by law, all movers must assume liability for the value of property they transport. Make sure you understand what’s covered and how the process for filing a claim works. You may also consider third-party moving insurance or if your homeowners insurance company offers it.
    • Get multiple estimates and compare side by side. If one is significantly lower than the others, it may be a ploy to bind you to services that have hidden fees.
  3. Hackers attempting to steal your personal info or down payment, title fraud or fake escrow service request. If you receive a suspicious email, always call a phone number you know to be valid to confirm you are dealing with a legitimate source. Even Realtors’ emails can get hacked and you could receive instructions for wiring money to a scammer. Renters also should be very cautious about giving too much personal/financial info to someone over the phone and internet. Part of this scheme can be to steal identities through the Lease Application. Always stay in close contact with your agent or brokerage. And please reach out to us – we’re always here to assist you!

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