By Lydia Blair
Buyers and sellers aren’t the only victims of real estate scams and crimes. Realtors are also a favorite target of crooks, criminals, and other shady types.
Due to the nature of the real estate business, agents naturally come in contact and work with strangers on a regular basis. Most real estate deals involve big ticket transactions and that adds to the risk of dealing with unfamiliar people.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve highlights a few scams aimed at buyers and sellers. Realtors often get caught in the web of these deceptions as well. They just add to crimes that focus on these professionals.
After quizzing a few Realtors, here are just some of the scams going around lately:
- Email hijacking and cyberfraud. Like everyone else with an email address, Realtors get phishing emails, fraudulent notices, and hacking attacks. But these are laced with real estate references and are designed to get data for identity theft or for financial information. They contribute to the cost of Errors & Omissions insurance premiums for agents. Often the scams appear to come from a mortgage company, title company, professional organization, etc.
- Fake buyers. These devious phonies pretend to be in the market for a luxury home. They enjoy the charade of being fussed over and catered to. Dressing the part and asking detailed questions about the property, their deception can be quite believable – for a while. Fortunately, all they will likely rob you of is time – and maybe a couple of meals.
- Open house thieves. These criminals were mentioned last week as targeting home sellers. But they also target Realtors. Plenty of agents have been robbed of money, jewelry, etc. while holding an open house.
- The Friday night date. Another unrepresented ‘buyer’ works this con. He schedules an appointment during the week to see an expensive house and loves it. Now he wants to come back on Friday or Saturday in the early evening and bring his girlfriend or boyfriend. He confides that he could be the one and he wants his/her opinion on the house. He and his companion are warmly greeted by the agent, who shows them around. The ruse is simply to feed his ego, impress his date, and help him get laid.
- Theft of furnishings and décor. Agents sometimes assist with selling a home by having it staged with model furniture and accessories. The crook views the home and manages to leave a door or window unlocked. The house is later cleaned out either by the crook or the person who bought the furnishings, not knowing they were duped as well.
Of course, the worst crimes aimed at Realtors have involved violence. Plenty of agents fear for their safety. Sadly, they may have good reason. Agents have been robbed, raped, and murdered all over the country. The National Association of Realtors 2018 Member Safety Report stated that 33% of Realtors said that in the previous year they had experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information.
Knowledge is power and Realtor associations across North Texas hold regular classes on Realtor safety and fighting cybercrime. If you’re an agent, take a class or a refresher to remain vigilant.
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue or problem.
Lydia Blair (formerly Lydia Player) was a successful Realtor for 10 years before jumping to the title side of the business in 2015. Prior to selling real estate, she bought, remodeled and sold homes (before house flipping was an expression). She’s been through the real estate closing process countless times as either a buyer, a seller, a Realtor, and an Escrow Officer. As an Escrow Officer for Carlisle Title, she likes solving problems and cutting through red tape. The most fun part of her job is handing people keys or a check.