Are you being scammed? These days, it’s more common than you might think.

Protecting yourself against fraud when buying, renting, or selling real estate is crucial. So today I’d like to highlight some scams to watch out for as well as some information on how to protect yourself.

1. Wire fraud. The media has done a lot of reporting recently about this scam, but allow me to quickly explain it in case you’ve missed this coverage. Here’s how it works: Hackers gain access to the email account of someone legitimately involved in a real estate transaction, and then use that account to send false wiring instructions to the buyer. This results in buyers unwittingly sending their funds over to someone who has nothing to do with their home purchase.

There are two key things you can do to avoid falling victim to this scam. First, make sure wiring instructions are being sent from an encrypted email. Second, make sure you call your settlement agent (which, in North Carolina, will be your attorney) and double check that you have the correct instructions. If you do these two things, you will be safe.

“In this day and age, you’ve got to be careful who you trust.”

2. Inauthentic rental listings on Craigslist. Scammers are posting and promoting these false advertisements with the goal of tricking those who respond to sending them money. They do this by posting a rental listing that appears to be a very attractive offer, and then telling those who respond that it has already been rented by someone else. They then convince that person that they have another property coming available soon, and tell them that they can secure it by sending over a deposit. Of course, there is no listing. The scammer is simply trying to earn money under false pretenses.

To protect yourself, you can find a legitimate listing for the property being advertised and ask the rental agent representing it whether the deal can be trusted. You can also use public records to corroborate the legitimacy of a listing. I would be happy to further explain how to do this, so please get in touch if you have questions.

3. Moving company fraud. Imagine this: You’ve made an offer on a home and gone under contract. Next, you start doing some comparison shopping to find the best deal on a mover, when you notice a Craigslist ad with a very attractive deal. Of course you decide to contact the poster and get an estimate. Then comes the day of the move. The movers load up your belongings (and perhaps ask for more money than what you’ve already given them), and drive off—never to be seen again.

The lesson to take away from this scenario is to always make sure companies you work with are reputable. In this day and age, you’ve got to be careful who you trust. Check out reviews, look up credentials, and be extremely careful who you hire.

If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.