Real Estate is hoppin’! With historic low rates, an $8,000 tax credit, and great deals to be had, now is definitely the time to make a move! But a strong word of caution before leaping without looking – there are, unfortunately, corrupt individuals and organizations out there promoting what appear to be great real estate opportunities, when in fact, they are nothing but scams!
Case in point: By Monday afternoon, I had received 16 calls on just one of my listings. Sounds great for my seller…or was it? Turns out, all of these callers had one thing in common: They were searching for rentals on Craigslist and saw what appeared to be an incredible property listed at an incredible price. Now, let me digress by confirming that indeed this was a genuine property listed on Craigslist because I posted it! However, this property was NEVER for rent and in fact, had already been sold earlier in the week. Further research revealed that the content from my original listing (photographs, property information, etc.) had been taken and “reused” through a fake rental posting. As the Realtor of the original (and true) listing, my contact information was removed entirely. In its place, a generic email account was the only contact source available, requesting that those who were searching the site email them for more information. Once they did, then they would receive a letter from the fake “seller” based out of West Africa. This fake “seller” was conveniently unable to meet the potential renters right here in hometown Lexington, claiming to be traveling abroad for the purpose of bidding on petroleum land. In their absence, they requested that the renter hopefuls fill out a personal information sheet, submit it, and then they would simply mail them the keys to the property.
Many of these renter hopefuls decided to go view the property – since coming from Craigslist it seemed fairly legit – and once they saw my contact information on the sale sign in the front yard, they called to ask about renting. When I repeatedly had to inform them that the house was for sale, not for rent, I knew something was up – the seller wasn’t from Africa and this was a bonafied scam!
Having heard of similar scenarios occurring in New York and Florida a few months ago, I knew immediately the actions that I needed to take:
1. I made sure all of the people that called on this property clearly understood this home was not for rent and to make sure they did not /would not send any personal information to this alleged “seller” in Africa.
2. I notified my sellers immediately and let them know what was going on. I strive hard to make sure my sellers are always educated regarding how the showing process works and to make sure they never show the home unless I’ve set up an appointment with them in advance.
3. I went to Craigslist to report the fake posting. I, in no way shape or form, tolerate any fraudulent activity regarding someone’s home – let alone stealing marketing information and photographs in an attempt to con others.
After doing this, I wanted to go a step further by trying to get the word out through this blogsite, so that others may learn about this possible pitfall and protect themselves and their family, whether they are buying, selling, or in this case – renting!
Often times for buyers, the “Real Estate World” can be very daunting in its own right, let alone with all of the new tricks con artists keep trying. Buying a home is the single, largest financial transaction one will make in a lifetime and one that can be very confusing and overwhelming. That’s why it’s so crucial to have the right people on your team to help you to achieve your goals and to look out for your best interests…always.
Here are a few quick tips to help you assess whether or not a property promotion or advertisement is “too good to be true:”
If you are potential buyer:
1. Look out for poor grammar and confusing syntax. Often times, British spellings for words can be a red flag, but it goes without saying that this isn’t always the case. Odd sentences with words misspelled or missing altogether can likewise be a dead giveaway! Think: “Not Local.”
2. If someone doesn’t provide adequate contact information such as a full name, business name, email, and phone number, be very leery. A legit business person will have most – if not all – of these items, especially a phone number.
3. If they can not meet you in person because they are traveling, etc. and say they can send you keys via mail, chalk this one up as a scam!
4. If they ask for personal information, bank account numbers, or they want you to write a check in excess of the required amount, again, stay far away from this!
5. If you are buying a home, connect yourself with a good, honest local Realtor who will have your best interests at heart and who is available to answer all of your questions.
6. Bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!
If you are a seller of a residential property currently on the real estate market:
1. Make sure you never let anyone in your home that does not have a prior appointment to see your home.
2. Hire a Realtor. We are here to protect you, your home, and to make sure that all buyers coming to see your home are qualified, ready to buy, and are legit.
3. If someone knocks on your door, do not show them the home. Think: “Safety!” Tell them to call your Realtor to set up an appointment and that your Realtor will be happy to show them your home. Don’t ever fret when someone says they have to see your home now or they will walk away. A true, genuine buyer will understand. Do not let anyone ever pressure you to get in to see your home.
4. Always confirm! If someone comes to your home and presents you with a business card saying they are an agent, don’t automatically assume they are! Again, call your Realtor ASAP and confirm this information with them.
All in all, I hope these tips have helped and just remember that any true, honest, and reliable business person or company will NEVER ask you to submit detailed personal information over the internet. From Real Estate to Ebay, PayPal to banks, all of these companies will tell you that they will never ask for your password or personal information via online. The best rule of thumb: If you are suspicious at all, just call the company directly. If you receive an email alerting you of needed contact or personal information, never follow the links. Fraudulent companies and individuals have their cons down to a science, often mimicking the exact homepage of the original, true company and then emailing you to link to them. Just contact the company directly to confirm. Also, if at all possible, simply conduct your business matters with someone local. Even though technology has made it possible to communicate with others far away, having some good, ol’ fashioned ‘face-to-face’ time is the best way to go!
Lexington KY is always #1 in my book! Whether you want to buy a downtown condo, a custom walkout ranch on a golf course, or a horse farm in the country, I can help find the perfect home for you – as well as help you sell your home. In addition to Lexington Real Estate, I specialize in the nearby towns of Paris, Midway, Georgetown, and Versailles.