Around the House - Denise White
Although we live in “small town” Nova Scotia, we are not immune to Real Estate and other Scammers. There are many types of scams involving real estate. This article will showcase just a few of the top ones and ways to help prevent them for happening to you.
One of the most devastating scams is title fraud. This happens when a scammer steals the “identify” of a homeowner. The scammer will forge documents to impersonate the property owner. That way, they can secure a mortgage or secured line of credit against the property. When they receive the money, they take the money and run. Never to be seen again, and leaving the real property owner with a mortgage and/or line of credit to pay. Title insurance can protect against this type of fraud.
A second type of scam that is becoming popular involves the rental market. This happens when a scammer impersonates a landlord, property owner or real estate agent to rent a property they do not own. The scammer will take information including photos from a current property listing and post an ad on Craig’s List or Kijiji advertising to rent the property. This scam takes many faces such as:
1. The scammer may request a deposit to secure the property without actually ever showing it to the prospective tenant. A tenant may do this when the “rent” is too good to be true.
2. The scammer may meet the prospective tenant at the property but not be able to actually show the property (as they don’t own it) by claiming they forgot the keys or by claiming the tenant was supposed to leave the door open and forgot, etc.
3. The scammer may tell the tenant they are unable to meet at the property for some reason and schedule a meeting off-site to exchange keys, sign the lease and collect the deposit for the property.
In all of these cases, the tenants loses their deposit and/or rent money to a scammer.
A third type of scam is called the home improvement scam. It is on the Better Business Bureau’s top 10 list of scams for 2013. It happens when an unsolicited contractor/tradesperson comes to your door to offer you a deal that is “too good to be true”. These scammers usually are known for using high pressured sales tactics and offering a one-time, today only, type of deal. These may include sealing your driveway, installing roof shingles, installing alarm systems, etc. Seniors can be a target for these types of scammers. It’s always good practice to do your homework.
Take your time to check them out by calling around to see if your friends or family have dealt with them, call their local office to ensure they are indeed who they say they are or by calling the BBB, RCMP or local police.
A fourth type of scam is property investment seminars and courses. These rely on people who are looking for ways to get-rich-quick. There are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes. Usually the only people getting rich are the scammers. They may entice you by offering free materials, advice, and/or gifts. These types of seminars and courses are designed to use high pressured sales techniques to “sell” you expensive books, more in-depth courses, etc. Some seminars may seek investors to invest in their schemes. Remember it is best to always seek independent advice before getting involved with your time, money or commitment. Don’t get caught in their trap by thinking you can get rich quickly.
There are a number of ways to prevent identify theft such as:
1. Shredding all personal information before recycling it. This is very important.
2. Password protect your electronic devices such as laptops, ipads or tablets, iphones, Blackberry’s, or cell phones in the event they are lost or stolen.
3. Cover the keypad when using debit or credit cards at the Point of Purchase stores.
4. If you have more than one credit card, carry one with you and leave the rest home (in a safe location).
5. Be cautious when using credit cards to make online purchases, only use secure sites (the URL will be highlighted in green or show a lock symbol). Best to use a credit card with a small limit (up to a few hundred dollars) to make these purchases.
6. Don’t give out personal information to phone telemarketers. Be firm with them.
7. Use anti-virus software to protect your computers and other devices.
8. Check your banking accounts, credit cards statements, etc frequently. This is one of the best features of online banking, having the ability to check 2-3 times a week the activity on your accounts.
9. Do not reply to e-mails or open attachments from anyone you do not know. This includes emails from your Credit Card Company or bank. If your bank needs to reach you for something, they will contact you by phone. And remember, they have all your information on file. They do not have to ask you for it. They may ask you to identify your birthdate or home address to ensure they are really speaking with you. A scammer will ask for personal information.
Although we live in “small town” Nova Scotia, we are not immune to real estate and other scammers. Remember the old adage: If you think a deal is too good to be true. It probably is! Don’t fall prey to the old adage: It could never happen to me. Some of the best and brightest people have been taken in by scammers.
- Denise White is managing associate broker with Sunrise Sales and Brokerage Ltd. www.sunrisebrokerage.ca