Most people aren’t trained to spot a scam. As criminals have become adept at developing scams in the real estate industry, including all of the services associated with real estate, the importance of working with a professional buying or selling real estate in Houston has never been of such significance.
Being the victim of a real estate scam is not something anyone wants to happen, especially with their real estate transactions.
We’ll cover four of these areas to help you spot a scam and provide some tips for your protection.
1. Wire Transfers
Stop! Don’t click that link! Escrow funds are a target of this trend. If you are contacted to wire the money by any means of communication, especially if there is a change to the original instructions, you can check your original paperwork to ensure the contact information matches.
There’s no harm in reaching out to your lender to confirm the instructions you’ve received are legitimate and not actually a scam. These criminals create an offshore account and disappear with your escrow funds. Then, when you’ve transferred your funds, reach out to the settlement agent to confirm receipt as well.
2. Refinancing Your Mortgage
Predatory lenders persuade homeowners to refinance over and over, known as loan flipping. Often, borrowers end up with no equity left to leverage and high-interest loans they didn’t fully comprehend. It’s usually not a good plan to finance a mortgage within a close time range of another.
A favorite target of this type of scam artist is the older population, most especially those with the added vulnerability memory impairment brings. Lenders are required to provide closing disclosures as well as loan estimates, providing any third-party costs and all fees.
As a safety gap, any senior conducting business should routinely have transactions of a significant nature reviewed by a trusted family member or friend. Most especially when dealing with financing.
3. Capitalizing on your foreclosure
Facing foreclosure is extremely stressful and can leave homeowners desperate for a solution. Regrettably what seems too good to be true ends up being a nightmare created by swindlers. Often they represent themselves as government agencies and charge enormous upfront fees for resolution, leaving the homeowner in an even worse financial situation.
If they approached you first or don’t want you to speak to your lender, the red flags are waving and this is an alert to find a reputable source of assistance.
Should you find yourself facing foreclosure, first be direct with your lender. Many are willing to work out a solution with modifications, forbearance, or some other arrangement.
Speak to a HUD accredited housing counselor to provide you options as well, they will even attend third-party telephone calls with your lender to assist you.
4. Online or over the phone
Should you decide to make a go of renting on your own, there are a few steps you can take to safeguard yourself and spot a scam. Do your research, and locate the county records for the owner’s information.
If someone is acting as a representative of the owner, contact the owner and speak or meet with them personally, confirming you are actually dealing with the right person!
If they claim to be a real estate professional, ask to see their license and take a picture of it. All licenses can be confirmed on the state division of real estate licensing website.
Avoid the internet or over-the-phone transactions, meet in person to sign documents, and make payments whenever possible! Use a check for a record of the transaction as well.
While making our lives easier in many aspects, disreputable schemers have developed a system that uses the internet to their advantage. Inexperienced renters are their favored victims, although they’ll gladly rob anyone of thousands of dollars.
Often they’ll post photos of houses that aren’t even available and demand upfront fees just to make a viewing appointment. Never pay anything upfront before you know everything about the rental you are interested in here in Houston.
Avoiding this financial pitfall can be made by working with a real estate professional.
Trust your gut instincts. Your gut is like a second brain without emotions. How did you feel about the initial contact? Be wary of anyone interested in your equity! Reach out to those you know and trust for recommendations if something doesn’t sound right to you!
Don’t click a link or respond to any message that may be from a scammer. Do contact your local police department. Reach out to the FTC on their website to report any fraud, identity theft, or financial scams.