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Real Estate Red Flags: 5 Common Real Estate Scams to Avoid

In today’s digital age, where scams seem to run wild, the story of Charlotte Cowles serves as a real eye-opener for all of us. Imagine, if you will, a financial journalist (yes, someone who talks money for a living) losing a staggering $50,000 to scammers pretending to be from none other than Amazon.

This wasn’t a simple case of clickbait gone wrong; Charlotte was convinced to place her life savings into a shoebox and hand it over to strangers. Between the call from a faux-Amazon rep she was also certain she spoke with law enforcement at the federal level. And it all happened in less than 24 hours, leaving Charlotte to feel duped, violated, and doubting her sanity and her credibility. Lucky for us, she chose to publish the whole thing in NY Mag. Unlucky for Charlotte the Internet trolled her for days.

Charlotte's ordeal highlights a jarring truth: scams know no bounds and don't just prey on the old and underinformed. They target the young, the tech-savvy, and the fiscally educated as well. What’s even more alarming is that younger folks, including those bright-eyed members of Gen Z, are reported to be 34% more likely to fall prey to such deceit, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Whether this story is new to you or you’ve followed it as it made waves across national headlines, it’s a stark reminder that we all need to keep our wits about us. This includes when you buy, sell, and rent real estate. Navigating the real estate market requires a keen eye and a cautious mind, especially when scammers are constantly devising new ways to exploit unsuspecting individuals.

Here's a closer look at five common real estate scams, with a gentle reminder to stay vigilant and informed:

A Closer Look at Common Real Estate Scams:

  1. The Overseas Buyer Scam: Often, the scam begins with the scammer posing as a buyer located abroad, expressing an urgent need to purchase your property. They will go as far as sending a cashier’s check to secure the deal. However, shortly after the transaction, they might claim a sudden change of plans and request a refund. The check they sent is fraudulent and will eventually bounce, but by that time, the victim may have already issued the refund, resulting in a significant financial loss. Be cautious of any transaction that takes you off of your initial method of contact: phone, email, Airbnb, and seeks to move the transaction to a less formal platform like WhatsApp. If a buyer or renter is serious, they'll make the effort to meet you where you're comfortable communicating.

  2. The Bogus Investor Scam: This scam involves an individual claiming to be an investor who is eager to put your home under contract without any earnest money or credible references. Their actual intention is not to buy your property but to sell the contract to someone else for a profit. The danger here is not just in the potential financial loss but in the valuable time on the market wasted, time that could have been spent finding a legitimate buyer. It's also important to know that this person may be represented by a buyer's agent who is green or gullible. Representation is not an indication that the buyer isn't a conman. A good listing agent will go the extra mile to verify your prospective buyer's credentials BEFORE you accept their offer and go into contract.

  3. Wire Fraud in Real Estate: In competitive housing markets, the urgency to secure a home can make buyers vulnerable to wire fraud. Scammers steal photos and details from legitimate listings and create fake ones. If a buyer expresses interest, the scammer might ask for an upfront payment to "secure" the property. These requests are often accompanied by high-pressure tactics and a false sense of urgency. Buyers should verify all communications by contacting their real estate agent directly through verified means to avoid falling victim to this scam. Whether you're buying or selling, using a reputable party like a Title Company can help protect you from wire fraud schemes. Seek those with a policy and procedures for handling wire transfers.

  4. Unreasonable Charges: Scammers may also attempt to impose unusual charges on one party, such as insisting that the seller cover the cost of the buyer's home inspection or the home appraisal. This is not standard practice and can go both ways. Asking for assistance in clear and defined ways (e.g., help with closing costs upfront in an offer) is normal; asking for help for transactions mid-way should raise immediate red flags about the legitimacy of the transaction.

  5. Rental Listing Theft: A particularly prevalent scam involves the theft of for-sale listing information, which is then used to create fake rental listings. The scammer lifts information from the MLS, Zillow, Redfin, and other real estate listing sites and creates phony rental listings. These listings are often advertised at below-market rates to attract unsuspecting renters. The scammer will then demand a deposit from interested renters without providing a tour, usually citing high demand as the reason. This scam not only deceives renters but can also cause significant inconvenience and distress to homeowners and their agents. Sadly, there is no remedy for this scam for property owners outside of reporting the bogus listing. For renters, no one should ever ask you for money down on a property you haven't seen. Google the property first and check for duplicate listings.

Staying Safe:

In the face of these scams, a little skepticism can go a long way. Steer clear of deals involving overpayments and insist on using reputable third parties, like title companies, for handling funds. Beware of people unwilling to use standard Louisiana Real Estate Commission contracts or standard procedures. If something feels rushed or too good to be true, take a step back and scrutinize it. Genuine deals will hold up under examination; always verify the legitimacy of all parties involved.

The Good News:

Stepping into the real estate market can seem a tad overwhelming, especially with all the scammy shadows casting doubt. But here’s the good news: you’ve got friends in the biz ready to keep you safe.

By making smart choices and teaming up with reputable pros early, like us here at Cool Murphy Real Estate, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Our agents are not just trained to spot the sneakiest of scams, but we also pride ourselves on working with the most trusted third parties to make sure every transaction is as smooth and secure as can be. We’re here to walk you through every step, ensuring that your journey in real estate is not just successful but also downright enjoyable. So, let’s team up and make your real estate dreams safe, rewarding, and possible together.


Voted Neighborhood Favorite by Nextdoor, Team Cool Murphy is a top-producing, licensed real estate team based in New Orleans, brokered by Cool Murphy, LLC.

Celebrated for her next-level creative approach to real estate, Elisa Cool Murphy is an award-winning, top-performing real estate broker in New Orleans and the founder of Cool Murphy Real Estate.

Contact Her -

Facebook: @homeinneworleans

IG: @coolmurphynola

YouTube: @coolmurphynola

phone: 504-321-3194

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