Beware of Internet Scam Targeting Real Estate Agents

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Real Estate Agent with Lyon Real Estate BRE #00697006

Several weeks ago I received an e-mail directly from my Web site, asking for more information on a listing. It sounded weird from the beginning because the writer indicated she lived in the UK but wrote in broken English, and didn't seem to understand that the listing she was inquiring about had sold. I received several more brief e-mails (with many spelling mistakes), asking if I would send her listings between 500,000 and 700,000 Euros. 

I googled the name but could find nothing.

I've learned long ago that when your intuition tells you something is amiss, it most likely is amiss. So, to see where this would lead, I sent a couple listings.

Last Friday, the writer, a Mrs. Achap Rita, said she was going to Cameroon for a few days and then was flying to Sacramento. She asked me for the closest airport.

Today, I received an e-mail from the "Air France Customs Bureau," which maintains a Web site at Yahoo (ha, ha, ha). They wrote to advise me that Mrs. Achap Rita had been arrested in Cameroon with "a huge sum of $354,701,510" in Cameroon currency or $780,000 USD. This e-mail me asked me to confirm that I had a working relationship with the arrested person.

I am not responding, of course, because I am certain the next e-mail will ask me for my bank routing numbers and to deposit this money in a U. S. bank. I can hardly wait for the next e-mail, NOT. I am considering responding by saying I am the U.S. Customs Official at gmail.com, and I have arrested Mrs. Elizabeth Weintraub, carrying a huge sum of money . . . but I probably won't.

If you receive an e-mail like this, you should report it to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Division, which is precisely what I did with it. I regularly receive the Nigerian scam e-mails, but this approach is new. It wouldn't astonish me to learn that these people are targeting FSBOs and just recently decided to go after real estate agents. The moral is always listen to your gut. If you suspect criminal activity, report it.

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Elizabeth Weintraub is an author, home buying expert for About.com, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Weintraub is also a Sacramento Short Sale agent who lists and successfully sells short sales throughout the four-county Sacramento area with an emphasis on Elk Grove. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put 40 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate. BRE License # 00697006.

The Short Sale Savior, by Elizabeth Weintraub, available with free shipping.

Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of Lyon Real Estate. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to elizabethweintraub.com.

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Rainer
16,197
John Fariss
Fariss Appraisal Services - Bakersfield, CA
Appraiser - Bakersfield, CA
I think the next email will be a request to post some money or send a check to bail her out and lay claim to the huge some of money she was carrying...or some other such nonsense as this.
Oct 29, 2007 02:35 PM #1
Rainmaker
716,575
June Piper-Brandon
Century 21 New Millenium - Baltimore, MD
Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time

I have had several of these along with several phone calls.

At first they look legitimate but upon further research they are just scams.  We need to take more care and be extra careful these days.

Oct 29, 2007 02:38 PM #2
Rainer
80,816
Jason Romrell
Business Attorney and Success Advisor - Los Angeles, CA

Yikes!  Seems like a healthy dose of common sense saved you!  :)  Thanks for passing on the warning!!

Oct 29, 2007 02:50 PM #3
Rainmaker
1,266,945
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Hi John, June and Jason: The crooks are becoming more sophisticated these days, I've noticed. Still, there's always that little bell going off in the back of your head. Because you just don't know. Couple years ago, some guy wandered in off the street at my office, asking me about a property we had listed that was occupied by tenants. I still cringe a bit when I realize the mistake I made. I gave him my business card and suggested he drive by the property because I didn't believe he was a real buyer. But he was. And he bought that house from me. I hang my head in shame.

But I am also "working" with a buyer who found me on the Internet and says she wants to buy $5 million of vacant land for development. I have weird vibes about it. I mean, if I had $5 million to invest, I wouldn't pluck somebody's name off the Internet. Would you? We'll see where this one goes. I sent her a buyer's broker to sign because I don't work for free. I don't automatically shut out these types, but I'm on my guard. I think it's healthy to be a bit skeptical.

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Oct 29, 2007 02:55 PM #4
Rainmaker
257,636
Candi Munguia
Munguia Group Properties - Lewisville, TX
REALTOR, Texas Dream Homes
Good information and thanks for the heads-up!  It never ceases to amaze me how many people out there are trying to run scams.  Fortunately, the vast majority of people are good, honest folks!
Oct 29, 2007 02:56 PM #5
Rainmaker
1,266,945
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Thanks, Candi. Yes, most people are honest, but it's the dishonest ones that can wreck havoc with our lives if we're not careful.

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Oct 29, 2007 07:06 PM #6
Rainmaker
315,770
Monika McGillicuddy
Prudential Verani Realty/Hampstead - Hampstead, NH
Southern NH & the Seacoast Area
They never give up do they? I've seen so many of these types of scams...sad part is people do fall for them.
Oct 30, 2007 12:12 PM #7
Rainmaker
1,266,945
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Hey Monika: Well, I hope I prevent at least one other agent from "falling for it."

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Oct 30, 2007 09:19 PM #8
Rainmaker
158,602
Stella Barbour
NoVa Brokers LLC - Vienna, VA
Principal Broker, Serving Virginia and Maryland
This is has been going on for some time now.  You would think people would stop knowing this scam is now "old" and everyone is aware.  Dishonesty is always around us.
Oct 31, 2007 08:14 AM #9
Rainmaker
391,045
Eric Kodner
Madeline Island Realty - La Pointe, WI
CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 -
Yes, the scams have now invaded even listing inquiries.  It's the price we pay for being visible on the Web.  Ironically, while everyone here on AR is trying to improve their Website visibility, the flip side is that we become a bigger target for scammers.
Oct 31, 2007 08:22 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,266,945
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Stella: It's unfortunate that we must always be on our toes, on the lookout for crooks.

Eric: Yes, it's the targeting of listing agents right now that is scary. 

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Oct 31, 2007 03:49 PM #11
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Rainmaker
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Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents

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