In the age of the internet, technology has become an essential part of everyday business. However, this rise in technology has made it easier for cyber criminals to trick unwitting individuals into giving out sensitive information that compromises their finances.
This is also true in the real estate industry, where scammers can take advantage of the hectic home buying and selling process. These scams come in many forms from phishing emails to urgent phone calls. Trust your gut and if something seems suspicious hang up the phone or disregard the message. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Below are some common housing scams and how to avoid them:
This usually presents as a phishing email or text message from someone pretending to be from your title or escrow company. These messages provide instructions on how to wire money, oftentimes with spoofed phone numbers and websites to appear authentic.
How to avoid: Check any original documentation that you received from your lender and call the number listed there to verify wiring instructions. If the message is coming from an email address or phone number that you do not recognize, do not click on it and instead contact the person you originally connected with.
These scams typically involve someone claiming they can help a homeowner save their home from foreclosure and reduce their mortgage payment via a huge up-front fee. They will claim they’re affiliated with the government or a government housing assistance program and provide fake credentials, such as email addresses and phone numbers.
How to avoid: If you’re at risk of foreclosure, work directly with your loan servicer to modify your existing loan or request forbearance to avoid falling victim to these scams. Going through a foreclosure can be a frightening experience but be wary of anyone trying to rush or pressure you into making any financial decision.
These scams involve cyber criminals posting fake rental ads on social media or other sites, oftentimes using photos from other listings. These ads will request an upfront payment in order to see the property and the scammers typically have no connection to the property or owner in any way.
How to avoid: Use legitimate rental sites when searching for a place to rent and never send over money to view a property. If possible, try to do any type of negotiation or payment in-person and use a check to have an automatic receipt.