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  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , real estate, ,   

    Scam Round Up: Homeless victim loses savings in scam and more 

    By Greg Collier

    In this week’s round up, we have an update on a recent scam, a reminder of a grim scam, and a heartbreaking story on how heartless scammers are.

    ***

    You may remember a story from our last Scam Round Up where teachers in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area were being targeted in a jury duty scam. More recently, this scam moved westward and is now targeting teachers from the Cleveland, Ohio area, with at least one teacher falling victim to the scam.

    This is where scammers pose as local police and tell their victims they missed jury duty and a warrant is about to be issued for their arrest. However, a payment over the phone will supposedly resolve the matter.

    Much like in the Pittsburgh scam, scammers are calling schools in the Cleveland area asking for specific teachers and threatening them with arrest. One teacher is said to have lost $2000 to these scammers.

    Again, when it comes to jury duty, all communication is done through postal mail and not over the phone.

    ***

    In Upstate New York, police there are warning residents about a scam affecting the families of the recently deceased. Scammers are calling these families posing as an actuarial company claiming there’s been a data breach of the deceased’s information. The families are then asked for personal identifying information of the deceased.

    In this instance, scammers are likely trying to commit identity theft. They want to do things like open credit cards or take out loans in the deceased’s name before the credit companies update their record.

    If you were ever to receive a phone call like this, the best thing to do is to ask for them to send a request in writing. While not a guarantee, this does go a long way on discouraging these kinds of scammers.

    ***

    If that story wasn’t disturbing enough, a homeless woman from Florida was recently taken for over $1000 in a rental scam. After saving up enough money for her and her newborn baby to rent a home, she responded to an online real estate ad. She was texted by the supposed landlord, who asked her to pay a $75 application fee over Zelle. She was told she couldn’t see the property for a few days since it was currently occupied. Then she was asked by the supposed landlord to send $1049 for the first month’s rent. Fearing she might not get the home, she sent the money.

    Anytime a prospective landlord can’t show the property for whatever reason, there’s a good chance they’re not really the landlord.

    ***

    We hope that our readers never have to deal with scammers like this. But if you do, we hope we’ve prepared you enough to detect them.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , real estate, ,   

    Homebuyer loses $155K in email scam 

    Homebuyer loses $155K in email scam

    By Greg Collier

    A woman in the state of Georgia was getting ready to close on a new home when she received an email from her lawyer. She was given instructions to wire transfer the $155,000 for the closing costs. However, the money did not go to the attorney. Instead, it went to the bank account of a local scammer who was recently arrested on felony theft charges.

    So, how was the scammer able to fool the victim? This scam is known as the business email compromise scam, or BEC for short. In this scam, the scammers hijack compromised email accounts of real estate attorneys, title companies, or banks. This way, the scammers can monitor the emails for people who are getting ready to close on their homes. Then, the scammers either use the hijacked email address or a spoofed address to give fraudulent instructions to the homebuyer to wire the money to the scammers. Meanwhile, the victims think they just closed on a new home.

    According to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, this scam is becoming more common. This scam is so profitable, the scammers only need one victim to fall for the scam to make a ton of money.

    While you may not be in the market for a home right now, you may be in the future. So, it’s best to have this knowledge now instead of finding out before it’s too late. When the time comes to buy a home, the best way to protect yourself is to verify everything by phone. If you get an email from someone involved in the process asking you to make a substantial payment, call them to verify the request. It might be even better to visit the sender in person to verify any requests. No one wants to go through the stressful process of buying a new home only to have their dreams of a new home dashed by losing money to a scammer.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , real estate, ,   

    Closing costs stolen in real estate scam 

    Closing costs stolen in real estate scam

    By Greg Collier

    This scam doesn’t sound like it should be possible. It seems more like something you would see as a plot point in a movie. That doesn’t change the fact this scam happens rather regularly. While it is a type of phishing scam, this scam doesn’t even have a name for it, as far as we know. We’ve been calling it the closing cost scam, since it targets home buyers who are getting ready to close on their new homes. If it wasn’t for the fact that victims have lost upwards of $100,000, this scam could be considered genius. How it happened recently is especially uncanny.

    A man from Louisville, Kentucky, was getting ready to close on his new home, when he received an email that appeared to come from his closing attorney. The email instructed the man to wire $70,000 in order to prevent any delay with the closing procedure. After wiring the money, the man called his realtor, who informed him that the closing attorney did not send the email. The man tried to get the bank to stop the transfer of funds, but it had already happened, meaning the $70,000 was gone.

    Scammers were able to fool the victim because the email looked almost identical to the ones he had been receiving from his attorney, including the logo and signature. However, there was one minor detail the victim overlooked. The law office had the word Louisville in their name and in their email address. The scammers spelled Louisville in their email address with only one L, spelling it Louisvile.

    Somehow, scammers are getting into the email systems of realtors, lenders, and attorneys, and are monitoring the activity until someone goes to close before setting their trap. The scammers have also been known to stalk social media profiles of people who share with their friends that they’re getting ready to buy a house.

    If you’re getting ready to close on a home, be suspicious of any communication asking you to send money. If you receive an email like the one in the story above, call the sender to verify whether the request is legitimate or not. It would be even better to visit the sender in person to verify any requests. No one wants to go through the process of buying a new home only to have the deal fall through at the very last minute due to a scammer.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Face-to-face meeting still leads to rental scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Since the advent of online marketplaces, the rental scam has been a thorn in the side for tenants searching for new homes. For those who may not be aware, the rental scam is essentially when a scammer rents out a property they don’t own to an unwitting victim. The scammer takes the victim’s money while leaving the victim thinking they just rented a new home. Meanwhile, the scammer makes off with the victim’s money, while the victim could potentially be left without a home. These fake rental properties are often copied from legitimate real estate listings but listed at below-market rents to lure in victims. One of the warnings we typically give our readers is to be suspicious if a potential landlord gives excuses about meeting in person. But what can you do if a scammer agrees to meet you?

    That’s exactly what happened to a woman in Kansas City. She found a rental property listed on Facebook Marketplace that seemed perfect for her. She messaged the landlord about the property before talking to the landlord on the phone. The two finally met in person before the victim paid the landlord $1000 as a deposit and first month’s rent. However, the day before the victim was supposed to move into her new home, the landlord started giving excuses to the victim about meeting up to give the victim the keys. The victim went to the new home to wait for the landlord, but they never appeared. The victim had paid the landlord through the Venmo app, which basically meant the money was gone and couldn’t be recovered.

    Of course, when you first speak to a prospective landlord, you’re not going to know if they’re a scammer right off the bat. If they ask for payment in non-traditional means like a payment app or money transfer, that could be a good indicator that they’re trying to scam you. But before you even get to that stage, any potential renter should research the property first. Something as simple as a web search of the property’s address could reveal a scam in the making. If the address turns up for sale or has a higher rent, the odds are that the listing you found is part of a scam.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on December 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: campsite, , , , real estate, , , , ,   

    You can be scammed at any vacation lodging 

    You can be scammed at any vacation lodging

    By Greg Collier

    Currently, we’re still in the middle of the Christmas vacation season. We hope our readers’ vacation plans went off without a hitch. Hopefully, you didn’t have to experience the massive flight cancellations that took place over the holiday weekend. We also hope your vacation lodging was also to your liking.

    The reason we brought up lodging specifically it that there have been a coupe of stories in the news about people being scammed out of their lodging choices. For example, vacationers to Marco Island, Florida, showed up to what they thought were vacation homes that they rented, only to find out they were rented to someone else. It seems that the victim in these cases paid money to scammers who listed the vacation rentals online but didn’t actually own the properties they claimed to rent. This is just a variation of the rental scam where people think they’re renting a home they found on craigslist when the home is either actually for sale or being rented by a real estate agency instead of some guy from craigslist.

    So instead of getting a rental home, you decide to go camping. There’s no way you can be scammed camping, right? It turns out you can, The state of Indiana is warning campers about third-parties who are claiming to rent out campsites at state parks and forests. The scammers collect the money, but when the campers get to the site they thought they paid for, the site has actually been rented to someone else. In the Hoosier State, campers can only reserve campsites in the state parks through the state itself. Check to see if the state you’re going camping in has the same rules.

    Hotels and short-term rental platforms like Airbnb have their own set of scams to worry about. You can read more about those here and here.

    If you chose to stay home for the holidays this year, you may have made the safest choice of all.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: real estate, , , tiny home   

    Scammers are selling tiny homes 

    By Greg Collier

    For the past few years, there’s been a trend on social media of people building or buying tiny homes. Most of the people who do so cite financial reasons for why they became enamored with tiny home living. While tiny home living isn’t for everyone, it can’t be denied that rising housing costs have created this relatively new market. But just because you may be thinking about taking the leap into a tiny home lifestyle, that doesn’t mean you should take the decision lightly.

    In South Carolina, The Manufactured Housing Institute of South Carolina is warning residents of the Palmetto State about scammers who are claiming to sell tiny homes. According to the MHISC, scammers are trying to pass off modified storage sheds as tiny homes. The scammers are said to be selling these structures from the roadside. These structures are said to have the barest of amenities added to them and are still considered illegal structures by the state if they were to be used as a home. They are said to lack proper ventilation and other safety standards required in most homes.

    In many ways, moving into a tiny home is more work than buying a ‘standard’ size home. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into a tiny home, there is a ton of research that needs to be done before you even start building. We think it’s pretty obvious to say that you shouldn’t buy a home from a side of the road vendor with a spray-painted and misspelled sign. Unless you stop at a vegetable stand, there’s not a lot you should be buying off the side of the road. Most importantly, you need to check your state and local regulations regarding tiny homes. Some jurisdictions have banned them outright. You also have to worry about financing, as most traditional housing lenders won’t give loans for tiny homes. Then you have to worry about your new home being up to code as well.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Single mother pressured into rental scam 

    Single mother pressured into rental scam

    By Greg Collier

    Sometimes life throws challenges in our way that we’re not ready for. One minor bump in the road can have such a ripple effect that we find ourselves hoping for a miracle, so we can escape a desperate situation. For example, a single mother of three from Virginia need to find a new home immediately for her and her family after recovering from a number of illnesses. However, instead of finding a miracle, she found a scammer waiting to rob her of the little money she had saved for a deposit on a new home.

    She had found an affordable rental on Facebook Marketplace where her kids wouldn’t have to change schools. After filling out an ‘application’ to rent the property, the landlord said that there was another person who was getting ready to rent the property. If she still wanted to rent the property, she would need to pay the landlord right away through gift cards, since she couldn’t get away from her job. Unfortunately, she did end up sending $900 in gift cards to the supposed landlord for a property that wasn’t even being rented.

    As with most rental scams, online listings are copied from ads where homes are for sale instead of being available for rent. Scammers will copy ads off of Zillow and repost them on free platforms like Facebook Marketplace. The fake ads will almost always have the same word for word description used in the Zillow ad. Then the properties are listed for below-market value rent to lure victims into the scam.

    While everyone’s situation is different, no matter how desperate you may be, a rental property should be researched first before handing over any money. A quick web search of the address will usually bring up the original listing that the fake ones are copied from. And as with any scam, gift cards are a red flag in almost every situation. No real landlord or rental agency will ever ask for gift cards as a form of payment.

    In stressful situations like this, are judgement is often clouded. If you can, always try to take a step back and ask yourself if this situation seems off or too good to be true.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , landlords, real estate, ,   

    The rental scam from the landlord’s perspective can teach us a lot 

    By Greg Collier

    Recently, landlords have gotten a bad rap due to the eviction crisis brought about by the pandemic. However, many of them are just hardworking people using a property investment to make their living. When it comes to rental scams, we don’t often think of the legitimate landlord as being a victim of the scam. While they may not be losing money like the typical rental scam victim, they are spending precious time and resources to combat the scammers.

    In a typical rental scam, scammers will copy a legitimate listing of a home that’s for rent or for sale. The scammers will then post the property for rent on unmoderated platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Usually, the property will be listed at below-market value rent to try to entice a victim. Once the victim is hooked, the scammers will ask for money in the form of a deposit or first and last month’s rent. Some victims have even tried to move into the property, only to find that someone else is legally living there.

    A landlord from Vermont was recently interviewed by her local media, and she said that she continues to see her properties listed on craigslist by scammers. She also said that scammers are listing her properties on craigslist that aren’t even up for rent. This has led to people knocking on the doors of rented homes asking if they can see the property. The landlord also said that within a 48-hour period, her team will flag up to 15 fraudulent listings on craigslist. It doesn’t help that scammers are also flagging legitimate listings on craigslist as scam ads.

    So, as we always recommend, do your research in a property before committing any money to the process. A web search of the address can reveal a lot such as the legitimate listing if it is, in fact, for rent. Such a web search can also tell you what the typical rent is for that kind of property in the area. However, the best way to prevent falling into a rental scam is to check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find who truly owns the property.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , real estate, ,   

    Family taken in Bitcoin rental scam 

    Family taken in Bitcoin rental scam

    By Greg Collier

    A family from Eastern Pennsylvania is in the process of relocating to South Carolina due to one of the heads of the household being hired for a new job. The family found the ideal home for rent that they were looking for. It was in the perfect location and was well within their price range. The first problem was that the family found the home on craigslist, which the report we found this story on called “a favored hangout for scammers.” Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the family’s problems.

    After the family responded to the ad, they thought everything appeared normal. The people they were communicating with appeared to be from a rental company. The family was even sent a rental agreement to sign. However, all communication was done by text and email, which should have been the first sign that this rental company may not be on the up and up. The next sign was that the so-called rental agency asked for a $3500 deposit to be paid in Bitcoin. The scammers had to instruct the family on how to make the Bitcoin payment. After the payment was made, all communication from the supposed seller stopped.

    If you’re looking to rent a home, especially one that’s multiple states away, you really need to research the listing for legitimacy. A web search for the property’s address can turn up so much information, like if the home is actually for sale instead of being for rent. That search may also show that the rent isn’t as cheap as the initial listing said it was, as scammers usually list the home’s rent as cheaper than market value to entice victims. You should also ask for a live virtual tour of the home before making any deposits. If the landlord doesn’t communicate by phone, that’s also a good indicator the listing might be a fake. Lastly, never pay a deposit in any kind of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. While Bitcoin can be traced, it’s anonymous enough that victims rarely, if ever, get their money back.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , real estate,   

    In danger of being evicted makes a prime target for scammers 

    In danger of being evicted makes a prime target for scammers

    By Greg Collier

    The Federal Government has extended the eviction moratorium to October 3rd. Not only does this give tenants extra time to try to improve their situation, but it also gives scammers more opportunities to find more victims. Scammers are always looking for victims who are in a desperate situation, and there’s no situation more desperate than the possibility of losing your home. To scammers, it doesn’t matter if you only have a little money to your name. They’ll try to take it anyway. And now they’re trying to take it from those trying to keep a roof over their heads.

    The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning to those looking for any kind of rental assistance. Too many scammers are out there now, offering services that are too good to be true. The scams run from phony credit repair services to ‘guaranteed’ loan services. While there are legitimate credit repair services, consumers need to keep an eye out for repair services that make promises they can’t keep, like removing a bankruptcy from your credit report. And no loan is ever guaranteed. Those who are offering such loans will probably ask for an upfront or advance fee and not provide any service.

    There are also government grant scams to look out for. While there are government grants that provide financial assistance to some tenants, the government will never reach out to you. And again, the grant scammers will ask for an advance payment disguised as processing fees. Real grants require no such fee.

    However, the BBB has been warning about one particular scam lately. In it, the scammers call you to tell you that your loan is approved. They’re hoping that you’ve applied for at least one loan to help improve your situation. The scammers will then say that before they can release the loan money, you need to increase your credit score. All you need to do is wait for $1000 to show up in your bank account then once you send the $1000 back, your credit score will be improved enough to get the loan. The money deposited into your account is fraudulent and if you send it to the scammers before your bank catches the fraudulent transaction, you’re not only responsible for the $1000 but any overdraft fees as well.

     
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