Real Estate Scams: Protect Your Assets
The world is littered with scammers. You have probably received at least one email in your life from a rich “distant relative” with an inheritance or “Arabian prince,” and all they want is to forward you their fortunes. These communications are typically written with broken English and full of spelling and grammatical errors. Surprisingly, some people do fall for these. Most do not. But it doesn’t really matter how many people fall for this trick- what about the scammers who are much savvier? Well, let’s just say scammers in the real estate market are a lot smarter. They know that buying and selling a house is tough, and they use that stress as a way in. Make sure you are aware of what real estate scams look like and how to protect yourself.
What do real estate scams look like?
You may have noticed that your agent’s email has a disclaimer at the bottom. It says something along the lines of “Never give our personal data via email, and never wire transfer funds without calling first!” Usually, this is written in bold letters and includes several exclamation marks. It’s important information, and it’s important that you see it and understand what they are asking.
Once wire transfer funds are moved from one account to another – you cannot retrieve them. So, accidentally transferring your down payment or funds to the wrong account can be devastating. Real estate scams typically create email addresses that look exactly like your agents, with one letter changed. They respond in similar formatting to your agents or lenders. They will send a request to your agent and then copy their signatures to use in their phishing emails. These scammers aren’t after small dollars here. They work harder and really put in the effort because they know that their success will pay off handsomely.
How to protect your assets
How can you protect yourself from these real estate scams? First, always call before you wire transfer any money. Don’t just call the number you see in the email – actually call the number you have saved in your phone or one that you find online by looking up the financial institution. Double-check email addresses before you respond, and never provide any secure information in those emails. Your real estate agent and lender will never ask you for things like your social security number, birth date, or bank account numbers in this format. Most lenders have secure portals that you have to log in to each time you submit information. This ensures that the information is encrypted before and during transmission.
Never share any login information for your email, bank, or personal accounts. This might seem obvious, but sometimes it’s tempting to just hand off a task to your agent or lender. The problem is that no reputable agent or lender will ever ask you for a password. So that should be a major red flag.
If you have any questions or uncertainties about the situation, always contact your agent directly. They appreciate you reporting these odd behaviors. It not only protects them as an institution, but it protects their future clients as well. It is always better to be safe than sorry if you’re worried about potential real estate scams.