In 2017 over 9,500 individuals became victims of real estate fraud, amounting to over $56 million in losses, according to the FBI. Real estate scams still exist, so watch out for the following types of deception.
Be aware that public wi-fi is not considered a secure internet connection. Hackers prey upon wi-fi hotspots to view data on these networks using special software. Avoid sharing any confidential information on these networks, as well as through email or public clouds.
Suspicious Escrow Emails
Escrow wire fraud can occur through an email when a con artist tries to get a victim to wire escrow funds to a fake website they’ve set up. These attackers use techniques such as imitating domains of well-known companies.
Always remember before making a wire transaction to call the lender or title company directly on the phone, from a number which you have independently verified, and verify the wiring instructions and escrow account number. Avoid clicking emails or links until you are sure who you are dealing with. Call your title agent immediately after sending money to verify the transaction.
Predatory Loan Flipping
Loan sharks look for victims to refinance their mortgages several times, draining equity, which leads to higher fees, points and loan payments. They hunt for seniors with impaired memories who have accumulated equity, then suggest the benefits of mortgage refinancing.
Loved ones of senior homeowners should provide financial assistance to prevent these real estate scams. They should keep refinancing to a minimum and only work with trusted firms.
Fraudsters research public records for pre-foreclosures to target homeowners with income vulnerabilities. They pretend to offer mortgage reductions for a high fee by saying they work for a familiar government agency.
Limit your communication about mortgage issues with your trusted lender. Learn your options by contacting a HUD-accredited housing counselor. Anyone who tells you not to talk with your lender should be considered suspicious.
Be careful of fake rental ads online, a scam that has defrauded millions of young renters. These scammers use borrowed photos to pose as property owners who demand upfront payment for a deposit or hold on a property. But really all they do is take your money and run.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of any of these real estate scams, contact the FTC to file a complaint. You can find more information on their website at www.ftc.gov.