Protect Yourself From Real Estate Scams

By Thomas C. Schultheis
2019 President 
Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS®  

Real estate-related scams are unfortunately prevalent in our society. Here are a couple of recent scams to be aware of, plus information on how to protect yourself from falling victim to them. 

Wire Fraud Scams – Large sums of money are often transferred during a real estate transaction.  Most of the time this is done via wire transfer from a bank to the escrow company.   Sadly, we have seen situations in which fraudulent entities are able to hack an email account involved in a transaction and send a fake email with incorrect wiring instructions directing the buyer to send money into escrow when, in fact, the money is being sent to the scammer’s account.  

How to protect yourself: 1) Call your Realtor, escrow officer or bank should you ever suspect anything.  2) Do not ever transfer funds prior to calling to confirm the transfer instructions, and only call the phone number previously provided by your escrow company, not the number in the transfer instructions. 3) Avoid sending personal information in emails or texts. It is best to give this information over the phone or in person to your escrow officer.

Craigslist Rental Scams – This one is for renters.   We all know that Craigslist is a main source of rentals in our community.  Just remember that if a rental sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  We frequently see Craigslist scams that lure renters by offering a rental at an unusually low price.  These scammers often steal photos from real estate sites and write a story about how they cannot physically show the rental but will take an application and deposit.

How to protect yourself: 1) Again, if you ever feel something is amiss, please call a Realtor to determine if the advertisement is legitimate.  2) Also, never send money before you have seen a property and established that the contact person is the property’s legitimate owner or manager.  Realtors will be happy to help with this verification process.  The last thing we want to see is our clients lose thousands of dollars.  3) Utilize local professionals. Realtors and property managers know the market, the red flags, and ways to protect our clients from scams. It never hurts to have a professional in your corner.  

The Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® urges you to “Call your REALTOR®” to learn more about how to protect yourself from malicious behavior related to real estate transactions. 

Thomas C. Schultheis is a Santa Barbara native and a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. In addition to his work on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, Thomas holds a Broker’s license and additional designations. Thomas lives in Santa Barbara with his wife and their two-year old son. He can be reached at 729-2802 or SBRealtorTom@gmail.com.  

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