When it comes to online fraud, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. As a property seller, the fact that you are selling such a high-priced asset makes you more of a target for scammers than the average person.
Most people have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude, but the truth is that these people can be extremely convincing. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling too savvy to be fooled, that you are too small of a target, or too rural. You would be surprised as to the amount of information they can collect, and the amount of work these people do, in order to seem legitimate. Because of this, it’s best to approach each potential buyer or offer with a bit of skepticism. Taking this approach, following these tips, as well as consulting with your lawyer often, will save you from headaches down the road.
We can’t stress how important your lawyer is in protecting you throughout your transaction, including shielding you from suspicious people. One of the most important measures you can take in any offer scenario is to tell all buyer prospects to have their lawyer (or real estate agent) contact your lawyer directly to proceed with that aspect of the sale. This step usually deters anyone with malicious intent and they will more than likely disappear after that.
Even the world’s largest and best platforms often struggle with keeping malicious outsiders away from their valued users. Here are a few best practices for spotting red flags, as well as some handy do’s and don’ts to safely guide you in interacting with unknown prospects online.
Things to watch out for in buyers
- A potential buyer rushing you into a decision and seeming overly time sensitive.
- The potential buyer asking you to send them money, AT ANY POINT.
- They use a PO box as an address.
- They require an international money transfer.
- Being contacted by a foreigner. Many of the most popular real estate scams have been from people claiming to be from outside the country.
- The potential buyer makes an offer without wanting to see the home in person, or at least have their family member or agent see it.
- The potential buyer offers up too much information immediately. Such as personal, banking information, and contact information in the first few emails.
- The buyer asked you to refund them because they “overpaid” with their deposit cheque (it’s often a forged cheque).
- Never accept cheques without consulting your lawyer.
- Never transfer large amounts of money through email.
- Never send sensitive information through email, especially to someone you don’t know.
- If you receive a suspicious email, don’t open it. If you do, don’t click on any links.
- Follow your gut! If something seems suspicious, it probably is!
- Vet all serious buyers through your lawyer.
- Change all online passwords on a regular basis (including email, banking etc.).
- Choose a strong password. Meaning it is not easy to guess, and it contains a combination of letters, numbers, symbols and capital letters.
- Be extra cautious of international buyers
- Those across international borders can be harder to track and authenticate that their intentions are legitimate.
- Make sure that your privacy settings on social media sites are strict, as scammers could try to use some of your personal information against you in order to seem legitimate.
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Chris is an editor and writer for Welcome Mat. He is based out of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.