Fraudsters keep homeowners on the hook with real estate scams - Better Business Bureau
Orginally released by the Better Business Bureau on June 26, 2015.
Calgary, Alberta – The average Alberta home sells for more than $400,000*, and with nearly 10,000 layoffs due to Alberta's economic decline*, homeowners may be looking for alternative ways of financing a home if they can't secure traditional mortgages or are looking for a way to keep their home when they run into financial difficulty. When buying a home, BBB and the Real Estate Council of Alberta encourage homebuyers to watch out for real estate scams that could lead to more financial strain.
Natalie Scollard, communications coordinator at RECA, says scammers target financially vulnerable homeowners, usually with foreclosure schemes, mortgage fraud, title scams and other investment fraud.
"Some of the things we've seen are homeowners who've gotten a little behind on their mortgage payments and a stranger comes by with some scheme to help you keep your house, generally involving a transfer of the title and renting it back from the new owner," says Scollard.
In other instances, homeowners facing foreclosure are contacted by scammers posing as a foreclosure rescue company and demand payment upfront to help stop the foreclosure process, only to disappear once they receive payment.
Scollard says other common real estate scams include investment deals advertising extremely low property prices with statements like "$50,000 below market value or 25 per cent below market value," which are likely red flags of a scam.
Scammers also target homeowners with good credit by advertising a no-strings attached deal.
"If you have good credit and someone offers you $5,000 to simply lend your name and good credit to help out someone get a mortgage for a few brief months, and you don't have to do anything, it's probably too good to be true," she says. "Lending your name and credit information in a situation like this could have you participating in mortgage fraud."
Though real estate scams aren't increasing or decreasing, Scollard says it's just a matter of scammers re-inventing old scams. "The scams simply become different based on whether it's an up market or a down market," she says.
"There are always predators out there looking to take advantage of housing market trends."
President and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, Sandra Crozier-McKee, says scammers know when people's emotions and stresses are high and prey on the vulnerable. "Homeowners facing financial difficulty can be duped into a false sense of security by crooked companies and think their homes will be saved," she says. "Unfortunately, people end up losing a lot of money and their houses through real estate scammers."
BBB and RECA offer these tips to help homeowners slam the door on real estate scams:
- Start with trust: Ensure you are dealing with a real estate professional who is properly licensed in Alberta. To check provincial real estate licensing, visit bbb.org or www.reca.ca to find trustworthy realtors.
- Get it in writing, and read it: When purchasing a home, be sure to get all of the information in writing and don't hesitate to ask questions about something you don't understand or agree with.
- Check a realtor's history: You can check to see if any disciplinary action has been filed against a realtor by visiting RECA's website or check BBB Business Reviews to see if there is an alert against a real estate business, complaint history, customer reviews and other information.
- Seek legal advice if necessary: Always be wary if a realtor or investor tries to convince you that you don't need outside or legal advice. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional if you feel something doesn't seem right.
- Don't wire money to someone you don't know: Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or putting cash on a prepaid debit card. Why? It's like sending cash: once it's gone, you can't trace it or get it back. Legitimate realtors and investors do not typically ask for money using these forms of payment, so consider that a "red flag."
- Take a friend with you: Meet the homeowner and realtor in person at the property to tour the home together. Be wary if the advertiser will only communicate by text message, or claims to be out of the country or refuses to meet up with you in person.
- Don't give out personal info or payment upfront: Don't give out personal information (bank account, social security number, credit card number, etc.) until you have seen the property in person.
For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.
ABOUT RECA: RECA is the governing body for Alberta's real estate brokerage, mortgage brokerage, property management and real estate professionals. RECA is committed to the public interest by promoting the integrity of the industry and protecting consumers. RECA is mandated to protect consumers and to provide services that enhance and improve the industry and the business of industry professionals.
Leah Brownridge, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
(403) 531-8793 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Natalie Scollard, Communications Coordinator
Real Estate Council of Alberta
(403) 685-7902 or email@example.com