I don’t know if it is the time of the year when people need money for the holidays that spur scammers and criminals to come out of the woodwork, but we are at that time of year again.
As you know, we have highlighted the Foot Fetish Creep several times during the last two years, and we are again receiving calls and emails from members that fit his general actions and comments of the past. He is again largely targeting those who have advertised in various print publications so those of you who advertise, and we are certainly not telling you not to advertise, need to be on extra alert for his calls. If you do receive a call from him (or 50 as he sometimes does as well), please let us know. Just as an aside, he seems to usually hang up and stop calling when members have said something along the lines of, “I know who you are. You are the Foot Fetish Creep, and we are working with the police to help find you.”
We have also received renewed notices from members about supposedly foreign clients who want some sort of money transfer made to a bank account. Let me just say that this scenario has become more common for scammers so please be extraordinarily cautious, as you should always be, with foreign clients. (And as always, we are not saying not to work with foreign clients; just be smart about your dealings with them. If it sounds odd or your gut tells you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t.)
We also have received more reports of purses being stolen out of cars, which leads to the reminder to NEVER leave anything visible in your car, even if you are just running in a property for a few minutes. That is all it takes for a criminal to break your car window and be gone with your purse—and everything in it. Common advice also tells you to place your items in the trunk prior to arriving at your destination. This might sounds difficult, but it just means to put your computer or anything else of even minimal value in the trunk before you leave your office or home. You can just take your purse, cell phone and anything else with you when you go in the store or property.
On a local TV news station, it was reported that someone is placing fake Harris County orange notice stickers on homes, specifically in the town of Oak Ridge North (near The Woodlands), which strangely isn’t even in Harris County. The notices indicate that this is the Final Notice and has a phone number to call that purports to be the Harris County Clerk’s office. That office has said the notices are definitely not from them, and the local police department has said that it is likely a scam to obtain homeowner’s person information. If you or a client receives one of these notices, please contact your local law enforcement agency or the Harris County Clerk’s Office to report it.
Lastly, the Craigslist scam has reared its ugly head again as well. This is the scam when someone takes a listing from the Internet that it for sale and lists it as being for lease on Craigslist, usually at an insanely low price. (It gets lots of people to respond to what looks like a deal that is too good to pass up.) The homeowner is almost always out of the country doing mission work but is just looking for someone “responsible to take care of my home while I am gone for the next few years.” Obviously, since they claim to be out of the country, they ask for the first and last month’s rent to be wired to them and then they agree to overnight the keys to the lease applicant. The keys never arrive though. In one case last year, the supposed homeowner was in town and showed the property to the applicant. Ironically, there was a broken window in the back of the home, through which the supposed homeowner most likely crawled and then actually went to the trouble of changing the locks so that they keys he had would work for the showing. In this case, the “renter” gave him the first and last month’s rent in cash. She was surprised when the REALTOR® who had the home listed for sale arrived and informed her that the house was not for lease and that she had been scammed. It was a very unfortunate situation for everyone involved. It should be noted that the reputation of Craigslist is not helped at all by these scams so we have a very quick process through which we report the scam listings and they are removed from the Craigslist site. They take the integrity of their listings very seriously and have been very easy with which to work in these situations.
If you are contacted in any of these scenarios—or others—please let us know so that we may let your fellow REALTORS® know so that they may be on the lookout. I also want to reiterate that we are offering REALTOR® Safety course about which you may register for at www.har.com/edu.