Real estate scams quietly claim victims in our community, possibly every day. These scams take a variety of forms, and they can unfortunately trick you easily if you don’t do your research and exercise caution before investing.
In this article, we’ll share tips on how to protect yourself as an investor, and what to do if you’ve been scammed.
Real estate scams can be difficult to track due to a lack of statistics. Many people choose not to report that they have fallen for a real estate investment fraud. The silence around this kind of fraud makes it hard to chart its frequency, as well as making it difficult for would-be investors to become familiar with the common elements of a scheme and avoid it.
Rental scams are a common form of real estate scam. Whether looking for a long-term rental home or a vacation rental, you look online and you find the perfect place at a great price. You negotiate with the property owner online and agree to the terms for your move-in or holiday stay. You send over the payment. When you arrive at the destination, you come to one of three unfortunate realizations: the property doesn’t exist; the property is not as advertised, or someone else owns the property and has no idea why you are trying to enter their home! Either way, you are left without a good place to stay and the thief has your money.
Other common scams target people who are buying or already own homes. Scammers impersonate legitimate escrow services and home finances and convince home buyers to send them payments or refinance their loans, respectively. These scammers may take your money, or they may also steal your sensitive data and use it for identity theft. Whenever you perform any financial transaction related to your home, make sure you are dealing with a legitimate financial provider.
A third common real estate fraud is the land banking investment scam, which we have covered in detail in another article. In short, this involves convincing people to invest in worthless or non-existent land.
How can it happen?
These scams most frequently target people who are conducting real estate deals long distance, such as if you are securing a vacation home, or finding someplace to live as you move for work or school. In these situations you are trusting the homeowner or real estate agent to accurately depict the property you’re inquiring about, not realizing that they are lying to you about everything. Such scams are increasing in popularity because scammers see it as a great way to make a lot of money at once.
FBI issues a warning
The FBI came out with a warning to everyone wanting to buy or rent a property in the United States. The warring states that scammers take real advertisements, change the phone number, and make some adjustments, and then repost it. With only a little work, the scammers have created a tempting target, and innocent victims attempting to contact a homeowner or agent are instead connected to fraudsters ready to take their money and give them false hope in return.
I got scammed; it is too late for me?
If you have fallen victim to a real estate scam, you may feel like your money is gone forever, and you still have to find someplace else to stay. Note that if you were scammed on a vacation rental site, they should have rules in place to help you, but you’ll have to act fast and be sure to follow their procedures. For instance, if the property was not as advertised but you stayed there anyway, it is much harder to get your money back.
There is help available
If you were the victim of a scam on a site that doesn’t offer user protection, the best solution and option is Claim Justice. We have years of experience fighting all manner of real estate scams, including rental scams. We offer the greatest chance of getting your money back.
What are the requirements?
The first thing that comes to mind when you’re the victim of a crime is going to the police. However, this option will not necessarily get your money back. With Claim Justice, your chances of getting your money back are much greater. The police have a variety of responsibilities, but our only focus is getting money back from scammers. We have a team of professionals that have worked and won many cases just like this. We fight for your right and justice.
In order for us to build a case against the scammers, we will need a variety of information from you. First, the amount of money lost, and the payment method. We’ll need any communication between you and the scammers: emails, phone call records, etc. You’ll need to show proof that you already requested that they returned your money (if you were connected with them through a third-party site and you also contacted them for restitution, share that information as well). If you can provide all of this information, you will have a strong case. If you cannot, we will not be able to trace your money and get it back.