Active Rain Masterminds-Ways To Deal With The Real Estate Scam Of The Day

By
Real Estate Agent with Integrity Real Estate Group
http://actvra.in/hHm

Computer Crime SceneIt seems that in our tightening economy we are hearing more and more about real estate scams.  People posing as owners/landlords creating fraudulent leases robbing people of their deposit, even some owners with a foreclosure sale set on their property.  And so many of us agents have had our listings hijacked online by people like these.  What can we do to help prevent this and protect our consumers?  Increase awareness?  Mandate paperwork or create additional legislation?  What is the solution?

Scams aren’t new phenomena in real estate but they have taken on a new dimension with the increased use of the Internet by anyone wanting to take the money and run.  Scammers can leave a wake of frustrated homeowners, distraught tenants and angry Realtors® all looking for ways to stop them.  Realtors® frequently are on the front line battling these scams. We advertise our properties on Craigslist and risk our listing data being scraped, and falsely advertised as a rental. We field the phone calls after a consumer has been “taken” by someone in a fraudulent transaction. And we write offers on properties and handle short sale transactions that may (unbeknownst to us) put us in the center of a mortgage fraud situation or other fraudulent buyer scam.

Scam Artists Our hands are often tied as scammers are able to hide behind untraceable email addresses and fake ID’s to keep us from easily finding out who they are.  However there may be a few ways to at least thwart their attempts to steal a listing and money from a prospective buyer or tenants pocket.

For agents who use Craigslist as a marketing tool, instead of posting your listing in a straight text format use one of the pre-formatted templates such as Vflyer, Postlets or Real Bird.  These templates make it harder for someone to quickly scrape your content and re-post it.  If you decide to post photos watermark them with your phone number, name or real estate company.  This way if they are stolen your information is visible to anyone who sees them.

If you are a homeowner who is using a free or paid website to try and find a buyer or tenant for your property, set up a daily Google Alert for your address, subdivision and/or street name.   Check it see if you notice it showing up with links to another site.  If you see something that doesn’t look right contact the site administrator where your original ad is posted right away.  Most will take it down immediately.  

If you are a consumer and are thinking of renting or buying a property you have seen online ALWAYS met with the person who is advertising the property in person.  Check on-line sources such as Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com for confirmation that what you see on-line is accurate. Never under any circumstances wire any money directly to someone you have not met or provide them with your social security number or financial information.   A reputable agent or homeowner will meet you at their home or office.

As Realtors® are best defense is always a good offense.  As with most of the challenges we face in our market staying informed and passing information on to our clients and prospects is paramount.  We aren’t law enforcement and can’t go after a scammer ourselves.   If we or anyone we know has fallen prey to a scam we need to make sure that all of the information is passed on to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their on-line filing process for reporting and possible prosecution. 

 

The Rain Goddesses
Posted by

                                   Real People*Real Lives*Real Estate

If you are interested in learning more about the Northern Virginia Real Estate market including Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William Counties give Cindy Jones and Integrity Real Estate Group a call at 703-346-2213.

Military Relocation Specialist serving military families relocating to and from the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Quantico MCB and all of the Military District of Washington installations. 

Military Relocation Professional


Check out www.varealestatetalk.com and www.cjrealtygroup.com for more information.

Integrity Real Estate Group
 
Real People*Real Life*Real Estate

Licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia



 

 

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Pat Fenn 09/01/2011 08:21 PM
  2. Erica Ramus 09/01/2011 10:01 PM
  3. Hannah Williams 09/19/2011 10:35 AM
  4. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 09/19/2011 10:43 AM
Topic:
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Location:
Virginia Prince William County Woodbridge
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Tags:
active rain mastermind challenge
real estate scams
federal trade commission
craigslist scams
mortgage scams
short sale scams

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Show All Comments
Rainer
307,049
Jennifer Chiongbian
Specializing in all types of Manhattan apts & townhouses - Manhattan, NY
Real Estate Broker - NYC

I have seen so many fake listings on Trulia.  Not as many as Craigs List but still, quite a number.  I try to steer people from these open sites because it still has quite a bit of fraud on them.  I tell them to go to the actual brokerage sites which are a lot more reliable than the open sites.

Aug 31, 2011 08:25 PM #5
Rainmaker
279,850
Gail C. Harris
Resource Network, LLC SFR, AHWD, ACRE, SMAR Board Director - Chesapeake Beach, MD
Reach the BEACH with Gail C. Harris (cell: 703.868

Very timey for all those still suffering in this market.  Kudos to you all. :) Gail

Aug 31, 2011 08:27 PM #6
Rainer
84,958
Cherie L. Gottshall
Ramus Realty Group - Frackville, PA
Realtor

Great points!  We do have to be very careful with anything we put out there on the internet to guard against scammers.  I believe NAR is doing a Webinar in September about just that.  Being aware that it can happen is a first step.

Aug 31, 2011 09:06 PM #7
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Jon-I think anything you can do to at least deter a scammer is important.

Sep 01, 2011 08:36 AM #8
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

James-I don't understand how so many people can fall victim to these types of scams.  It doesn't take much effort to check on the ownership of a property and wiring money to anyone you don't know should be a big red flag.

Sep 01, 2011 08:37 AM #9
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Chris Ann-I don't think they know what to do unless they can catch someone red handed at a property.  Thanks for sharing your own experience with a potential scammer.

Sep 01, 2011 08:38 AM #10
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Erica-interesting that an ex-police officer noticed the scam on Craiglist.  I wonder if they have ever set up any sting operations trying to catch someone in the act?

Sep 01, 2011 08:39 AM #11
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Jennifer-that's another good idea.  You won't find fake listings on a major brokerage site unless the scammer has somehow figured out how to get into the MLS.

Sep 01, 2011 08:40 AM #12
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Gail-I'm amazed at what I find on Craigslist not only potential scams but agents who don't follow the rules of advertising as well.

Sep 01, 2011 08:41 AM #13
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Cherie-keep an eye on our own listings with Google Alerts for the address is one first step and educating the public on what to watch out for is another.

Sep 01, 2011 08:44 AM #14
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Patricia Kennedy
Evers & Company Real Estate, Inc. - Washington, DC
For Your Home in the Capital

Great job, Cindy!

This month's subject brought back memories of something that happened when I was about five years old.

We lived in a small apartment in downtown Louisville, Kentucky and my mother was expecting her third child.  So my parents began to look for a rental house that would hold our growing family.  They responded to a rental ad in the local paper for a place that sounded ideal.  When they got home, they were really excited about the place, and had given the "landlord" a check for a deposit and the first month's rent.

Only problem, the "landlord" wasn't.  He was a tenant who had just moved into the place, and he collected money from about ten couples, in addition to my parents. 

Luckily, someone discovered that he was a bad guy about to jump town.  The police got involved, the bad guy wound up in the slammer

But the most excititng part of it for me was watching my father be interviewed on the local television news program. 

In this case, the bad guy was caught and the victims of the scam got their money back.  Today, with the Internet scams, that might not happen. 

Sep 01, 2011 10:13 AM #15
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Pat-as we said scams have been around a long time.  I'm sorry to hear your family had to go through such a trauma but I'm sure it has made you a more aware Realtor®.

Sep 01, 2011 10:26 AM #16
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Hannah Williams
Re/Max Eastern inc. - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise in NE Philadelphia & Bucks County

In hard times there will always be predators out there who feed off others and take advantage of them .It is very unfortunate that these schemers are out there; but they are out there to scam. Our team agrees the best defense is always a good offense .Check these people out. Meet them at their offices not at properties . Remember never  to take the law in your own hands. Contact the local authorities and file with FTC

Sep 01, 2011 10:59 AM #17
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Hannah-thanks.  I think we hit on most of the salient points of the question.  It has become easy for scammers to take advantage of anyone who isn't paying close attention.  At least being aware of what is going on AND never as you say meet someone directly at a property or wire money to an unknown source.

Sep 01, 2011 02:22 PM #18
Rainmaker
1,123,441
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

This type of thing is very scary.  I know it can become a big problem.  Good to get the word out to the public so they are fooled.

Sep 01, 2011 10:10 PM #19
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Joan-the more we inform the public as Realtors® about what can happen the better it will be for everyone.

Sep 02, 2011 02:23 PM #20
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Renée Burrows
Savvy Home Strategies Realty, LLC-REALTOR®-Estate-Probate - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Real Estate Broker - www.urLVhome.com

Cindy:  wanna say LOVE the new photo!  You look so approachable!

Love the video add and mention of FTC!  This is a great public service for people who are in distress.

Sep 13, 2011 10:05 PM #21
Rainmaker
515,524
Mitchell J Hall
The Corcoran Group - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan, NYC

Cindy,

Excellent informative public service post. I came via re-blog from Hannah Williams. I didn't realize until last summer there were so many rental scams because as a broker I don't give the key to anyone. I thought that was security enough. I didn't know there were online scams where people pay rent sight un seen over the internet. Anyone can put up a picture of anything and say it's it's for rent.

Last summer I got an email from a family in Texas from a blog I wrote a few years ago about my first NY apartment in a brownstone. They told me they rented the apartment for their 2 wek vacation and were asking me all kinds of questions about the building and neighborhood.

I asked if the landlord/owner (who I know) was renting it to them or if they were subletting from the tenant. They said no, they found the place online on a website and sent money rather than booking and staying in a hotel.

I thought it was a scam because you either rent from the landlord or sublet from the tenant. It is that simple. I felt so bad for them.    

Sep 19, 2011 11:46 AM #22
Rainmaker
240,331
Joyce Godwin
12810 Telge,Cypress,TX 77429 -Houston,Cypress,Spring,Tomball - Cypress, TX
RE/MAX Realty Center, Houston Area Relocation Info

Good info.  Thanks!  I've avoided Craigslist because of the scams we hear about there.  But I hear others talk about it being a valuable marketing tool.   Thanks for the suggestion to watermark. 

Oct 31, 2011 12:35 AM #23
Rainmaker
394,522
Inna Ivchenko
Mannis Real Estate Group - Calabasas, CA
Los Angeles / Valley Homes

Craiglist, trulia, zillow, facebook, etc. Even here on Active Rain! I see a lot fo yucky ads. You can flag a comment, but can you flag the blogger?

Today I read discussion on Trulia how those 'agents' 'thumb down' other agents blogs and comments and I also talked to someone about Craiglist that those people do the same, they 'flag' our listing on Craiglist as spam so they don't have competition. Is there anyone who controls those huge networks?

Mar 20, 2013 11:35 PM #24
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