If it walks like a scam and talks like a scam. . .

When a proposal walks or talks like a scam, it ain’t a duck.

It’s a scam.

And scams rear their ugly heads all too often in the world of real estate.

Mortgage fraud won’t surprise you as one kind of scam.  In the good old days when lenders were all too happy to provide liar loans, few were the self-employed individuals and their lenders who didn’t inflate income.

Then there are the real estate brokers, lenders and appraisers who conspire in some combination of the three lines of work to line their pockets by overstating a property’s value, setting up straw borrowers and resorting to other schemes.

Scams that are perpetrated on or by real estate agents, real estate lawyers and consumers occur as well.

Anyone who has tried to rent an apartment through Craigslist is well acquainted with how small is the likelihood of a genuine offer listed there.  Either outright criminals find ways to deprive unwitting respondents of their hard-earned cash or unsavory real estate agents post fictional ads just to snare a customer from whom a commission might be earned.

A recent story by Jim Adair on the RealtyTimes.com site elaborates on some of the other scams prevalent of late.

In one deceit, someone assumed the identity of a real estate agent and offered one of her listed properties in Saskatoon, Canada at a bargain rent online.  Reports Adair:

The fraudsters used the real estate agent’s name and set up a fake Yahoo email account. People who responded to the ad were told the owners were in Africa doing “God’s work” and that they had the keys with them, which they would send after a $1,000 transfer was wired to them.

It turns out that real estate brokers in six other cities related similar practices involving their own rentals.

Canadian lawyers who had been referred by sales agents in eight additional cities to a buyer who identified himself as Kin Hang Cheung and said he lived overseas have been taken in as well.

Basically, “Cheung” gave the lawyers a bad check, soon thereafter canceled the contract on the basis of a contingency clause and asked for return of his money by wire transfer minus fees and expenses before the lawyers could know that the check was no good.

Adair adds that the Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company (LAWPRO) in Ontario says red flags include use of a personal free e-mail email account from clients who say they can communicate only by e-mail because of time zone differences.

Also watch for emails where the sender’s e-mail address and the displayed name for that address are different, the company counsels, or e-mails that request for a reply to be sent to a person or e-mail address that is different from the sender’s name or e-mail address.  Adair further quotes LAWPRO on the usual warning signs such as poor spelling, bad grammar and outrageous claims — for example, a huge lottery win or inheritance.

Some of the e-mail-based frauds LAWPRO is seeing are “extremely sophisticated” and look like completely legitimate legal matters.   “The more sophisticated frauds have temporarily fooled new and experienced lawyers,” the company observes in Adair’s piece.

A page on LAWPRO’s site demonstrates how skilled are the fraudsters. (The check at the top of this post comes from that page.)

“We often get asked, ‘how could anyone fall for these scams?’ LAWPRO notes.  “This page demonstrates just how sophisticated the fraud attempts can be.”

Tomorrow: Weekly Roundup

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Web site

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