Every customer and retailer will at some point face an online scam. Although there have been a number of reports to warn customers, there are still regular complaints about fraudsters using the Internet to scam innocent buyers. Instead of the number of scams decreasing, over time scammers have become more sophisticated.
They have created surprisingly good websites, which look official and trustworthy. Using the anonymity of the Internet, scammers normally contact you via email, hiding behind the screen. The best thing you can do in order to protect yourself is to be aware.
Bproperty, the online marketplace for real estate, has listed indications for how to detect scams and online fraud.
Be aware if:
– You are asked for upfront payments or fees before you have met or signed a contract
– You are told to send money before you meet the seller
– You are told that the ‘seller’ or ‘renter’ is out of country and cannot show you the property at the moment
– You are asked to give money to a “lawyer” or “agent” on their behalf.
– The same property is listed a couple of times under different names and with different prices
Scammers do not come up with their own decoys; they take advantage of listing data and target victims. Normally, they illegally download online listings and repost them as their own with a much lower price, posing as the agent or landlord who is leasing the property. Once you are hooked on the surprising good offer, they ask for money upfront, pretending that this will cover the security deposit or their broker fee, while the contract is being drawn up.
Never pay or transfer money upfront! This is the ultimate indication of a scam. Once you have been tricked, it is almost impossible to get your money back. In more unsuspicious scenarios, they might not ask for cash but for you to simply transfer it to someone to prove you have the funds.
Instead, meet in person and research in advance whether they are licensed real estate brokers. This also goes for people who sell properties. Do not give away details to people who are overseas and cannot meet. They might be purely interested in getting your bank details.
Some might reply saying that they are not in the country and therefore cannot show the property – be aware. Never sign a contract or agree to payments before you have seen the property.
It is you who can help to make the marketplace more secure. Be aware, stick to your budget and always do a research before you agree to any payments. Once you have detected a scam, immediately contact the retailer, so that the false listing can be deleted and the uploading account can be tracked.