Scam artists are putting a full-court press on HAR members, so now more than ever, it is critical that you pay close attention to the details of every transaction and know exactly who you are dealing with. As HAR has warned in all its safety alerts over the years, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That applies to consumers and REALTORS® alike.

The latest scam brought to HAR’s attention involves criminals posing as owners of record of a property. This has primarily affected sales of vacant lots, but could soon involve other types of properties as well. In a recent case, someone posed as the owner of record of a lot, provided ID, but turned out to be an imposter. The fake ID matched Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) records. The lead came from Zillow. The listing signed, but was later foiled when the sign went up. As of publication time, Zillow and the Houston Police Department had been alerted and were investigating. The best way to protect yourself from scammers in a case like this is to contact the owner of record directly through a trusted means of communication to confirm they genuinely are the seller.

Another scam that recently came to light involves the leasing of for-sale homes by scammers who steal keys from both Supra and combination lockboxes which they then dispose of. They are using powerful cutting tools to physically break into the boxes. Agents will find occupants who claim they have lawfully leased the home and will show a bogus (non-TREC) lease. The occupants are often part of the scam, turning out to be squatters. If this has happened to one of your listings, call the police right away.

The newest bad actors are clever and extremely manipulative. In some cases, scammers claim to be law enforcement officials – calling from the Harris County or Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office – and stating that there is an outstanding warrant for the member and that they will need to wire or otherwise deposit funds in order to clear the case and not be arrested. Based on member complaints, these are among the most realistic-sounding calls, with some saying they have heard police scanners in the background, as if they are calling from a police station. These criminals do their homework and often know just enough about you and the names of colleagues to be convincing.

Other scammers will text or send emails claiming to be brokers or brokerage managers/owners, purportedly trapped in meetings or stuck on Zoom sessions or conference calls and ask that you run out and buy a bunch of gift cards. These are bogus. Ultimately, they want to get the gift card serial numbers from you so they can seize the cash equivalency and go shopping.

Scammers are also hijacking property listings from, including the photos, and listing them on craigslist and other non-MLS real estate sites where they are portraying them as rentals. Consumers are asked to wire funds in exchange for keys they will never receive. Many consumers have fallen victim to this scheme over the years and are devastated by the loss of their hard-earned savings. In 2022, HAR teamed up with Crime Stoppers and Clear Channel Outdoor to launch an awareness campaign about rental scams using billboards across Harris County with messages in English and Spanish. This scam has surged with limited resale inventory driving many consumers to the rental market and becoming easy targets. Learn more about this initiative HERE.


HAR urges you to call 911 if you are ever in a dangerous situation. You may also call the police about scams that involve physical danger, such as the illegal occupation of listed properties. For other scam situations, the FBI has a site for reporting fraudulent business activity: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has a department dedicated to investigating fraud and scams:  The FTC’s toll-free hotline is 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

HAR also offers safety classes. Sign up today at And be sure to take advantages of the SafeShowings service.

Once you are out of harm’s way and the police have noted your complaint, HAR welcomes hearing from you so that we can inform other members. You may even provide us with contact information for the authorities so we can reach out to them if needed. Email us at

The world is an increasingly dangerous place, as you can plainly see in the headlines each day. HAR has always made the safety and wellbeing of you, our valued members, our highest priority. By taking just a little time to be safety-aware and safety-prepared, you can reduce unnecessary risk and provide a safe environment for yourself, your colleagues and your clients.