Realcomp periodically receives information on real estate scams from Realcomp customers who have either been affected by these scams or know others who have been victimized. The best tools for protecting yourself against these types of schemes include being aware that they exist & exercising caution.
The following situations have been brought to our attention:
1. Scam: A buyer from another country contacts you to help him/her buy one or more very expensive homes in the area. The person claims to be wealthy, from a wealthy family, or holds a prestigious position dispelling all concerns of money being an issue regarding the purchase of the home(s). This person shares his or her plan to relocate to Michigan and the reasons why -- i.e. taking a job as a surgeon at an area hospital, taking an executive position with an area company, etc.). The buyer actually visits the area, meets with you, and says he/she is staying in a luxury hotel nearby. At some point, the buyer heads home and a relative of the buyer becomes desperate, needing your financial help just until the buyer (their relative) can be reached.
What You Can Do: Be aware that many scams involve someone who appears to be in a "desperate" situation. Even though you may want to rescue this person, trust your first instincts and use common sense (i.e. Is it logical or realistic for that family member to be contacting you for financial assistance?, Would it make more sense for them to contact a friend or other family members?). If you're still thinking "emotionally" about the situation, ask yourself this question: "What would my Broker do?". Then ask your Broker or a trusted associate for their advice. They should help you put this situation into the proper perspective. If you begin to suspect your buyer and his/her family member are scam artists, try your best to document as much information about them as possible and report the situation to the authorities.
2. Scam: Property listings fraudulently posted on websites (such as Craigslist) by a bogus party, listed for lease (instead of for sale), and grossly underpriced. In these instances, consumers have been encouraged to wire money to an account in exchange for a rental contract and/or keys.
What You Can Do:
1) Check the Craigslist.com website (and others like it) periodically to ensure your listings are not being illegally advertised by unauthorized parties.
2) Help educate consumers on the "Dos and Don'ts" of transacting business over the Internet.
3) Setup a Google alert on the address(es) of your listing(s) to monitor Internet postings related to these properties.
4) If fraudulent postings are found, and the incident(s) fall within the criteria for reporting cybercrimes to the FBI, file a complaint.
5) In coordination with any ongoing FBI efforts, report these fraudulent postings to the appropriate websites and ask that they be removed immediately.
Note: In cases of fraudulent postings on Craigslist.com, forward the property link from that website to Realcomp. We will follow-up with them to ensure that your listing is removed.
Consumer e-mails agent saying that because of her/his demanding work schedule (or other seemingly legitimate reason), they cannot meet personally with the agent. However, the person is interested in purchasing a home in the next month or so, and wants listing updates e-mailed to her/him.
What You Can Do:
Take all necessary steps to verify that this person is legitimate before providing them with updates of any kind.
A wealthy buyer, from overseas, contacts you regarding the purchase of a luxury home. The buyer may even meet with you or a local buyer's agent before heading back home. The buyer indicates he/she will pay with cash (through a wire transfer). and they request a quick close. The buyer may even provide you with copies of foreign bank statements that show sufficient funds for the property purchase. However, a successful wire transfer never occurs. Nonetheless, the buyer requests to have the keys to the property before the sale/closing.
What You Can Do:
Take all necessary steps to verify that this person is legitimate, follow all normal procedures established by your broker, do not make exceptions to these procedures, etc.
The scam artists arrange to see listed properties. During the showings, they may test out opening and closing windows and doors, actually leaving one or more entry points to the home unlocked. They then return to the property later for re-entry and to steal the appliances.
What You Can Do:
Please be sure to securely close and lock all windows and doors before leaving a showing - even if it appears that a potential buyer has already done this. Also, please be reminded that MLS Subscribers are never to give out lockbox codes to anyone other than other MLS Subscribers.
Go here for more info on reporting Internet crimes to the FBI: