At Dan Helwig, Inc. REALTORS®, we are committed to the security of your financial information. However, you must also take every step to ensure the safety and privacy of your information. To help educate you on certain types of frauds such as identity theft, online fraud and scams, we've listed some examples of fraudulent attempts. We’ve also detailed some of the major threats on the Internet today. Fraud and Scams do happen when involved in transactions regarding assets of monetary value. Protect yourself by consulting a professional over the phone or in person to verify any activity or contact with a person that seems suspicious. Criminals have sophisticated ways to steal your information—by text, using social media, through email, and by breaching retail and commercial systems that have personal identifiers like your birth date, Social Security Number, and other details. Many people don’t realize they are a victim of ID theft until they start getting the bills; in some cases, that notification may be from when criminals file for unemployment benefits using a stolen identity, it can take time to unravel what happened.
Fake Listings and Rental Scams
Scammers frequently post property rental ads on Craigslist or social media to lure in unsuspecting renters, sometimes using photos from other listings. The scammers, who have no connection to the property or its owner, will ask for an upfront payment to let you see the property or hold it as a deposit. In reality, they’re just looking to get quick cash through nefarious means — and they often succeed.
Rental scams are alarmingly common. According to data from Apartment List, an estimated 5.2 million renters in the U.S. have lost money due to rental fraud. Of those, one in three lost more than $1,000. How to protect yourself? The FTC recommends that renters educate themselves about potential scams when looking for a new place. It also urges renters to do their research and get all terms and details of their transaction in writing.
1. Be suspicious of anyone who asks for a cash deposit upfront to see a property.
2. Make sure you’re dealing with the real property owner before negotiating rental terms or seeing a property in person. Search the County Records to find out who the current property owner is and look for their contact information online.
3. Use a check, never cash, to make any payment so you have an automatic receipt.
4. If someone claims to be a real estate agent, ask for their license number and confirm the information online through your state’s division of real estate licensing.
Fake e-mails will often ask you for personal information. They may promise a prize or gift certificate in exchange for completing a survey or answering questions. In order to collect the alleged prize or gift certificate you may be directed to provide your personal information.
You can identify Fake e-mails because they often contain an overly-generic greeting and may claim that your information has been compromised, that your account has been frozen, or ask you to confirm the authenticity of your transactions. While some e-mails are easy to identify as fraudulent, others may appear to be from a legitimate address and trusted online source. However, you shouldn’t rely on the name or address in the "From" field, as this is easily altered.
Fake e-mails may direct you to counterfeit websites carefully designed to look real, but which actually collect personal information for illegal use. Check the URL in your browser’s address bar to ensure you are visiting a legitimate website. In addition to links to counterfeit websites, some fake e-mails also include links to legitimate websites as supplements to fraudulent e-mails in order to make them appear real.
Fake e-mails often contain telephone numbers that are tied to the fraudsters. Never call a number featured on an e-mail you suspect is fraudulent, and be sure to cross-check any numbers you do call with companies you know and trust. Some of the telephone numbers listed in fake e-mails may be legitimate, connecting to actual companies. Just like with links to legitimate websites (above), fraudsters include real phone numbers in an effort to make the e-mail appear legitimate.
Social Media Fraud
Sometimes, scammers will attempt to appear as a legitimate business on social media. We never ask for identifying information, photos, or documents through social media. Our social media platforms are for information only.
Don’t participate in those ‘fun’ social media surveys on social media that will reveal your personality type if you answer a few questions about your favorite color, first pet, or childhood best friend? These can be scams designed to get you to reveal the answers to common security questions. Don’t participate in these no matter where they originated.
If you get an email, phone call or text from someone purporting to be from the title or escrow company with instructions on where to wire your escrow funds, be leery. Fraudsters set up fake websites that appear similar to the title or lending company you’re working with, making it seem like the real deal. Scammers use spoofing tactics to make phone numbers, websites and email addresses appear familiar. But in these cases, one number or letter is often off.
Before you send money to a third party, go back to the original documents you received from your lender and call the phone numbers listed there to verify the wiring instructions you received. Never click on email or text links, or send money online, without verifying wire instructions with a live person on the phone from a number that you’ve called and verified. Be wary of any email or text requesting a change to wiring instructions you already have