Did you know you can be scammed when it comes to buying or renting real estate?

We have all read the news stories of people stealing packages off porches, scamming the elderly over the phone, and stealing bank cards. But did you know you can be scammed when it comes to buying or renting real estate?

The last thing consumers should worry about is being scammed when they buy or rent a home or refinance a mortgage. Unfortunately, criminals are getting more creative in how they target consumers. This can lead to major financial headaches for their unsuspecting victims.

You get an email, phone call or text from someone claiming to be from the title or escrow company with instructions on where to wire your escrow funds. Scammers

set up fake websites that appear like the title or lending company you are working with, making it seem like the real deal. Before you send money to a third party, go back to the original documents you received from your lender and call the phone numbers or contact your REALTOR® for assistance.

Potential renters can also get scammed. Rental property listing scams typically aim to steal money. They will try to get you to send a check for a security deposit or move-in fee without ever seeing the apartment, and they will keep the money without any intention of renting a unit to you. Be suspicious of anyone that asks for a cash deposit. Do some research on the local county assessors’ site to determine the owner and look for contact information. We have experienced scammers placing a rental ad on Craigslist for a property that is for sale. Just be cautious.

Loan flipping is when a predatory lender persuades a homeowner to refinance their mortgage repeatedly, often borrowing more money each time. These scammers tend to target seniors because its common for them to have a lot of equity in their homes. Elderly homeowners who have cognitive issues should involve a trusted relative or friend in any key financial discussion, especially about tapping home equity.

Some scammers target those in foreclosure, offering relief to capitalize on homeowners’ vulnerability. People have been swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A scammer will tell you not to talk to your lender, and that is a huge red flag. It is hard to speak to your lender when you are in imminent default or become delinquent because you’re afraid it might speed up losing your home. But you must open the lines of communication with your lender

If I can offer just one piece of advice it would be to be diligent. Question everything. Call someone you trust before making any quick decisions and never give out personal information over the phone unless you trust the caller.

I hope your week is full of peace and happiness. Remember to do good things!

Stephanie Lemley, 2021 MBOR President