Warning signs: Protect yourself from real estate fraud

When looking for a California dream house, it pays seekers to be careful about whom they do business with. Scammers love to take advantage of homeowners, and real estate fraud is just one way they like to do that.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2018, law enforcement authorities picked up five alleged scammers on indictments that say they “defrauded distressed homeowners, many of whom were elderly victims.” The incidents happened in San Fernando Valley, where authorities claim the defendants convinced homeowners to sign bogus titles to their property, and in doing so, put over $17 million in the alleged scammers’ pockets.

How do homeowners protect themselves from these kinds of schemes, and ultimately, from real estate fraud?

The Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Real Estate is glad someone is asking. Its leaders have resources to help landowners and others make choices to keep scammers away.

The Bureau points out warning signs real estate investors need to be aware of when transacting business. When agents do any of the following, stay away:

  • Operate without a real estate license
  • Give sales pitches that do not provide a lot of details and leave buyers with too many unanswered questions
  • Ask for cash up front
  • Refuse to meet in person or have no location to meet
  • Request payments to another party, not the service provider

The Bureau reminds readers of the old saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Always check an agent’s licensing status before doing business with him or her.

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