Real Estate Scams Now Hitting Zillow, 5 Ways to Avoid Being Targeted

I’ve posted before about the ridiculous rental scams that plague unsuspecting home buyers. These scams were previously limited to sites like Craigslist, but have now taken to top name real estate sites like Zillow as well.  Zillow allows owners to post their for sale by owner, con artists are now abusing this privilege by using it as their new playground. Here’s what you need to do to steer clear:

5- If its too good to be true, its too good to be true.
I saw a for sale by owner house on Zillow today for $23,000 in Birmingham, MI. This was very clearly, false. A quick MLS search showed the home was actually valued and listed at $349,000. The scammers target homes that are listed, but clearly vacant, and then copy the listing and photos over to a new posting with an unbelievable price to lure you into giving them a cash down payment.
If the price isn’t in line with the market value, its not likely to be real.

4- Verify All Data
Before meeting with the “seller” get their name, phone number, email and whatever other information you can get and google it all. See if you find any inconsistencies. Google the address of the property and see if its listed somewhere else for a different price. Check the address in the white pages and see who it lists as living there. BUT that usually isn’t even enough, a recent craigslist scam had the con artists actually signing their emails with the real owners name!

3- Read Between The Lines
A majority of these scams come from our of the country, places such as Nigeria. When reading their emails, you will usually see inconsistencies in their English and the way they write. Many times they are using translating software that translates their emails into English, but since most languages don’t translate word for word, you are usually able to tell if that is the case.

2- Never Give Cash
You should never in any large transaction be it a car or a house, give someone cash. It should always be a money order or certified check that is attached to a tracking #. A lot of times con artists will insist on cash only, that is a good indicator they are scamming you. Asking you to wire money is also a very good hint that it’s a scam. The tracking #s on money orders and certified checks still don’t trace down the person, but it’s a step in the right direction if you do find yourself in a bad situation.

And the #1 piece of advise to avoid a real estate scam

1- Hire a Realtor!
As a renter/buyer you don’t pay the realtors commission, so there is no benefit to you of not using a professional in your house hunt and is you’re best change against avoiding a scam.
NOTE: Zillow (and most sites) have a “FLAG LISTING” or “REPORT LISTING” option. If you suspect a listing is fake, flag it! They will investigate and remove it.

 

Margo Borkin
Real Estate One
$10,000,000 Sold in 2013

6960 Orchard Lake #150 West Bloomfield, MI 48322 | 248-419-3160 | 248-419-0930 fax
2013 Hour Magazine Real Estate ALL STAR –
Presidents Council of Excellence

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