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Sellers Beware – Real Estate Fraud Alert

A real estate agents job is to advertise your home for sale to the world to attract a buyer. But what happens when the agent also catches the attention of scam artists? Is your agent skilled enough to spot this clever new scam? Are you?

It is Friday morning, and you have an open house scheduled for the weekend. Your agent gets a call from a technician with the power company saying that he has a disconnection order scheduled for the home address. He has been unable to reach the homeowner and noticed that it was for sale and thought that the agent could help him get in touch with the homeowner to resolve so he does not have to cut the power. He slips in that once disconnected it could take 24 to 48 hours to reconnect plus a connection fee.

You can’t hold an open house without electricity so the pressure mounts to get it taken care of. Does your agent give the crook your contact info?  “No worries,” the technician says “Just tell the seller to call 888-366-9954 and give them the order number 31904519. It is scheduled to be shut off between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm, thanks for your help.”

By the way, 888-366-9954 is the really the scammer’s number, not the power company.

I post it here so anyone who Googles it will realize that it is a scam. The other number “Steve” the fake technician used is 818-453-3513.

Here is some more information from NBC News about the ‘Utility Company Imposter Scam’ https://www.nbcnews.com/better/business/how-avoid-losing-money-utility-company-imposter-scam-ncna823306

While this scam might yield a quick few hundred dollars, another scam has the potential for you to lose thousands and can be run on either the buyer or the seller. The way it works is the scammer puts a virus on your computer. The virus lays dormant until it sees an email with real estate, escrow, or wire instructions in it. The thieves create a fake email that looks real,  just like the escrow company’s email or the Realtor’s email. Then the scammer then gives instructions to wire in money for your escrow, often tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, wired directly to the bad guy’s account.

Once wired these funds are untraceable. The bad guys get a big score and you are out thousands of dollars.

To protect yourself

Never wire out any money based on an email regardless of how legitimate it looks. Always call the escrow officer directly from a known phone number and verify the routing number before you wire any money. Never use phone numbers provided in the email.

If you believe that you have received a questionable or suspicious wire or funds transfer instructions, immediately notify your bank, the Escrow Officer, and your agent. You should also notify the FBI https://www.fbi.gov; the FBI’s IC3 at www.ic3.gov; or 310-477-6565. You can find more info at the National White Collar Crime Center: http://www.nw3c.org and On Guard Online: https://www.onguardonline.gov.

Richard Wamsat

Richard Wamsat

Richard Wamsat is an author, a deep thinker, and master of home sales. He lives in Irvine, California with his wife Brandy and a fluffy white dog named Murphy. His knowledge of real estate spans two decades having purchased his first home at the age of 19. He has worked in both Northern California and Southern California markets and has fought with banks to save client's homes or get relief from underwater mortgages during the Great Recession. Richard is a licensed real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - CalRE#01345167. He has earned the designation of Master Certified Negotiation Expert from The Real Estate Negotiation Institute, a member of the Harvard Program on Negotiation. Connect with Richard on Twitter @rwamsat, or on his website https://ocLUXEhomes.com