When good closings go bad: What you should know about wire fraud and other scams

Those who are looking to sell, buy or rent a living/working space must perform their due diligence to ensure the other party is legitimate. The sad truth is that Florida has plenty of white collar real estate criminals who attempt to make big money through scams.

Scam Examples

Beware of fake properties listed for sale on websites like Zillow. Many scammers will pilfer photos, post them to the web and ask for down payments for a phony rental listing at another address. This is precisely why it is prudent to monitor listings on as many third-party portals as possible. You can also conduct a Google image search to determine if your photos are being used by others.

Wire Fraud

Watch out for phony emails that request payment. It is awfully easy to fall prey to an email that appears legitimate yet is actually an attempt to get you to wire money to a fraudulent account. Wire fraud is surprisingly common when it comes to real estate transactions. Oftentimes, one will wire money to a fraudulent account after receiving a seemingly legitimate email just before the sale.

Those who engage in wire fraud can even hack sales associates’ email addresses and request the money be sent to an alternate account. Do not accept such an email as valid. Always follow up with a phone call or an in-person meeting to confirm the new account belongs to the appropriate party. Any request for a SWIFT wire transaction should raise red flags for wire fraud as it indicates the money will be sent to a destination outside of the U.S.

When in doubt, do not comply with wiring instructions sent by email. If you accept such messages as genuine, there is a decent chance you will eventually end up in a nightmarish wire fraud situation. Once the funds are wired, they are gone forever. Though it is possible to report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, there is no guarantee the wire fraud criminals will be identified.


Some real estate agents do all the work necessary to close a listing only to find squatters on-site during the walk-through. The unfortunate reality about such a situation is that it takes some time to boot squatters illegally occupying a property. It might take six months to evict squatters. Be sure to periodically check up on listed properties including the lockbox.