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As the Seasons Change, Don’t “Fall” Prey to a Scam

Even though it seems like we run some sort of safety or scam reminder every few months in this publication or on the Members Only site, we still receive a good number of calls and emails from members who have either been victims or narrowly avoided that fate.

Many of the situations are retreads of things we’ve heard before but serve as good reminders for all of us. Other reports show the perhaps all to industrious nature of those who would exist to do harm, be it financial or otherwise.

If we haven’t pointed this out enough already, NEVER leave anything in your car during an open house—or even when you are just running into the grocery store for that matter. One REALTOR® recently had her purse stolen out of her car while she ran into an open house for literally five minutes.  It doesn’t take long for someone who knows what they are doing to quickly bring this reminder to the forefront.

We are obviously strong proponents of people moving to Houston and keeping our economy strong. At the same time, it seems that many of the scams come from people at least claiming to be interested in purchasing a property in Houston as a destination for relocation from overseas. It is probably the ease with which to explain the inability to meet in person and the need to wire money to some out of state bank account. Everyone wants to “make the sale,” but just use your intuition and take a step back to evaluate the situation even more when dealing with an international client. Again, we love international clients, but there needs to be an extra level of scrutiny when something doesn’t seem quite right.

Previously, we have suggested that everyone go on craigslist.com and search for your listings to make sure they are not being posted by someone else looking to scam unsuspecting renters/buyers.Now, it appears that another site is also falling prey to this similar scenario. Trulia is one of the most widely visited real estate sites in the country, but it now has a similar problem for REALTORS® as we had experienced on craigslist.com. 

The general scam takes a property that is listed for sale and posts it as being for rent at some ridiculously low price (for example, a house that is listed for sale but would rent for $3,000 per month is posted as being available for $1,200 per month). It makes it so attractive to visitors to the sites that they jump on the great deal. Again, it usually involves emailing back and forth with the “owner” who is out of the country for some honorable reason, and they ask the prospective renter (of the house that isn’t really for rent) to wire them the first and last month’s rent.They say they will overnight the keys to them as soon as they receive confirmation of the money transfer. Obviously, no keys ever arrive, and the consumer is out potentially thousands of dollars. 

There are scams and crimes like this happening virtually every day. We never want any of our members (or anyone else) to become entangled in any of these situations, so we again remind you to ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true. Also, just use your gut instincts and err on the side of caution.  Generating a sale or lease is not worth risking physical harm or actually losing potentially significant amounts of money. We’ve had reports from members who have lost more than $10,000 in one case.

With all of this in mind, please also make sure you look here to learn more about our upcoming REALTOR® safety classes that HAR is hosting to help protect our members from many of these kinds of crimes. It may sound cliché, but we really do mean it—our members’ (and your clients’) safety is our number one priority.  We hope many of you will register and attend these REALTOR® safety classes, and if there is significant enough interest, we will continue to offer them going forward to help meet this important need.

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