It only takes running an ad or two on Craigslist to open the flood gates of scammerific emails engineered specifically to pry a person away from their money. There’s always someone with an angle out there but there are ways to figure out whether the request is legitimate or a scam.
Sometimes a scam is so obvious it’s comical. Other times the con artists actually put a little bit of effort (and spell check) into what they’re trying to pull off and it takes a read or two to catch on.
Basically, most online scammers are after two things; your money and more info so they can get closer to your money.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell a car, a home or a pinball machine, that Internet or email inquiry you receive needs to be vetted.
One of the biggest online scams where real estate is concerned involved buyers renting a home from someone who doesn’t even own the home or represent the sellers.
The rental scam is simple. The scammer often steals the info and photos from a legitimate advertisement for a home for sale and reposts it “for lease by owner” usually at a rate attractive enough to compel consumers to act swiftly enough to fall for a scam.
Somewhere along the line the future tenant ends up producing a deposit to secure the rental and they never hear from “the owner” again.
The other scam is a purchase scam which involves a “buyer” who isn’t in town and wants to place a cash offer with a home inspection contingency. It’s usually a home in the $400,000 to $500,000 price range.
For what it’s worth, the absentee buyer actually produces proof of funds, photo ID or a passport, their attorney’s contact info and a few other items that somewhat add to the legitimacy of the purchase.
There are a couple of possible angles used to defraud folks of money with this grift.
In one, the seller or the agent receives a check from a “purchaser” presenting funds for a closing. Often the check is for nearly the full amount of the purchase. The buyer sends funds well ahead of closing and will soon after cancel the transaction and gamble that the attorney/title company will send their escrow money (in the form of a wire) before it is discovered that the check for the deposit is bogus and no money has been credited to the escrow account.
The other angle is when the potential purchaser “accidentally” produces an over payment of a fee or deposit and asks for a refund of the difference. Naturally, the original deposit was bogus and/or the check had not cleared.
Sadly, someone somewhere has fallen for these tricks or they wouldn’t continue to thrive.
The best defense any consumer, whether they’re a seller, purchaser, tenant or agent, is to trust their instincts when something seems fishy or too good to be true and to use Google and the public county tax roll to verify the legitimacy of the parties involved before any money or private information changes hands.
Out of curiosity, I Googled the name from the last scammy email I received and it returned 136,000 results. It would seem that I wasn’t the only person that Mr. Jirou Hayashi tried to employ to purchase real estate. Googling his email address and phone number produced tens of thousands of reports, as well.
It seems that while the scammers are finally smart enough to use spell check but they’re not smart enough to change their name from crime to crime. They’re literally banking on the fact that someone won’t do their homework and check them out before they do business with them, too.
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Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs, e-mail her at chris@LifeInBonitaSprings.com.