Buying or selling a house can be an intense experience, and unfortunately there are scammers that hope to capitalize on the sometimes hectic real estate transaction process.
A fellow Realtor recently told me that he receives calls almost daily from people who are at risk of being scammed. One way these people try to fool the public is by taking images of properties that are for sale and posting these images online as a property available to be rented. When someone is interested in the “rental” property, the scammer asks to be sent money so that they can show the property.
Unfortunately, this is just one of the ways that dishonest people can prey upon people looking for housing. Properly handling client’s data and privacy against cons and scammers seems to be a constant issue in this digital age.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) takes the protection of our clients very seriously. When concerning data privacy and security, NAR “strongly supports efforts to protect consumers' sensitive personal information, and the REALTOR® code of Ethics and Standards of Practice explicitly acknowledges a REALTOR's® obligation to preserve the confidentiality of personal information provided by clients in the course of any agency or non-agency relationship—both during and after the termination of these business relationships.”
If you start to become suspicious of a business interaction, here are some steps to take:
• Be cautious when completing credit checks and rental applications.
• Contact the website owner(s) and ask to have the property removed.
• Keep paper trail of all your communications.
• Report the fraudulent activity to the authorities (local and federal).
Sellers and Listing Agents should also sign-up for Google Alerts and get an email anytime the property’s address is published on a website.
I urge the public to be aware of these types of scams, and to be vigilant. It’s always a good idea to check with your Realtor with questions about what is required for a transaction. Our expertise as Realtors can protect our clients and help prevent these potentially devastating mistakes.