Real Estate Internet Fraud: Buyers, Sellers, Tenants, Landlords Beware

The internet is the way many people shop for their next home, but there are several scams that are prevalent in today’s market.

When you are browsing the internet for either a rental or a purchase or if you are trying to rent or sell your property yourself some of the RED FLAGS you should be looking for are:

The property is listed by 2 different parties and it is listed at different prices on the same website like Craigslist, Zillow or any other website.

The property price is below market.  If it is too good to be true, it is just that too good to be true.

The property pops on and off the market, i.e. you see it listed at 3pm and look again at 6pm and it is nowhere to be found and then look again at midnight and there it is again.

The owner of the property is in a foreign country whether on sabbatical or living there permanently.  Often they claim to be missionaries, military personnel, United Nations employees, or professors working abroad.   Or in the case of Tallahassee, the prospect is planning on moving here to study at one of the universities.

There is no sign in the yard or there is a sign in the yard and the company or person listed on the sign is different from the person you have contacted you on the internet.

They have asked you to provide personal information such as bank account numbers, wiring instructions, or your social security number, copies of your driver’s license.

They claim to have sent a bank check for more than the required deposit by accident and are asking you to refund the difference to them.  Example:  The deposit required was $2000 and they or their bank mistakenly sent $5000. These bank checks are fraudulent and will bounce.  You will have refunded them the overage with a legitimate check.  It is doubtful that you will be able to recover your funds and your buyer or tenant will never appear.

If they ask questions about features and information that are clearly stated in the advertisements, they might be sending mass emails responding to several advertisements in many different locations.

If the owner asks you to just look in the windows and review pictures on the internet and then asks you send or wire money and they will mail you a key.

The key is to be careful, be sure you know who you are dealing with in any transaction, but especially an internet transaction.