A Common Sense Approach to Protecting Yourself from Online Real Estate Fraud
The National Association of Realtors reports that 80%+ of home buyers and renters begin their search for a new home online. Our company strongly encourages anyone seeking a new residence to use the services of a Realtor™ who is a licensed real estate professional which adhere to a strict code of ethics, obeys the law and all other relevant rules, policies and procedures of any governing regulatory authority over the purchase, sale and lease of real property in your jurisdiction. Approach any prospective transaction with extreme caution if during your new home search you encounter any situation that seems too good to be true, makes you suspicious or otherwise seems unusual.
Identity of the Parties:
The most important step anyone can take is to protect themselves from fraud is establish the identity of the party with whom they are dealing. This includes not only obtaining that individuals name but also their email, phone and other relevant contact and licensing information. Wherever and whenever possible bring a friend or other companion with you on any in person face-to-face introductions, meetings and property inspections.
Long Distance Relocations:
Relocating from one city to another is one of the more common instances where consumers are the victims of real estate fraud. Criminals seek to take advantage of renters and prospective home owners due to the practical inconveniences of not being physically present during every step of the transaction process. This inconvenience and risk is compounded by the large geographic distances between your new and former residences where criminals often request funds/deposits, send fraudulent documents and or keys to the premises prior to you conducting an independent property inspection.
Low Purchase & Rental Prices:
If the rent or purchase price you find online seems unusually low or sounds too good to be true there is a strong likelihood you have just encountered a potentially dangerous situation. Consult your Realtor™ or licensed real estate professional to conduct a further investigation into the irregularity. There may be a legitimate explanation for the unusually low price and conducting a diligent inquiry will protect you from becoming a victim.
Personally Inspect the Residence:
Prior to sending any money it is important that you inspect your prospective home to make sure what has been represented to you online or through any other means of communication meets your expectations. When you inspect the residence ask your Realtor™ or other licensed real estate professional to confirm the ownership of the residence and that in party does in fact have the right to sell or rent that particular piece of property.
Forms, Methods and Timing of Payment:
Several forms of payment exist today that were not available a few years ago. Prospective new residents should be extremely skeptical and hesitate to proceed with any transaction making use of any irrevocable wire transfer service such as Western Union™ or MoneyGram™. Once the funds have transferred to any party there is little to no recourse to refund any money if one unfortunately finds themselves a victim of potentially fraudulent conduct.
Reporting Actual or Attempted Fraudulent Conduct:
If you suspect that you are a victim of actual or attempted fraudulent conduct it is important that you notify local law enforcement authorities where you are personally located, where you believe the parties you are communicating are located and where the property of interest is located.
The following resources are available to individuals seeking to report actual or attempted fraudulent conduct: