Sunday, November 24, 2013

Consumer Beware

This week I received a floor call on a company listing from a young lady who wanted to know more about a vacant house she had seen for sale in Broken Arrow. There wasn't anything unusual about her questions until further on into the conversation when she said she had already talked to the owner about the house. Since our company has an exclusive right to sell agreement with the home owner and his name wasn't anywhere in the Broker's public information, that seemed a bit odd. She wanted to see the house so we made an appointment for her to take a look. But before the appointment took place, the rest of the story came out.

She had been looking on Craig's List for a rental property. Under rentals she had found pictures of this house. It looked interesting so she sent an e-mail to the contact in the ad and drove by to see the outside. The house is in very good shape so this only made her want to see more. But the "owner" who replied back to her via e-mail lived in another state. And he had no intention of coming into town to show her the house. If she wanted to rent it, all she needed to do was sign the rental contract and send money. Then she would get the keys and be able to move in.

By now you're probably warming up to the fact that she wasn't talking to the owner at all. And you are right. The person she had been talking to lived in Colorado. The true owner of the house lives in Dallas. And now you know about the latest scam designed to dupe unsuspecting people out of their money.

It's hard to imagine that someone would send money to anyone without seeing them in person or seeing the inside of the house they are supposedly trying to rent. But they do. And apparently enough people are willing to do it that it's become a nice cottage industry for unscrupulous individuals with no conscience. The pictures are easy to come by. They can be copied off of the original listing from any Real Estate website. An online search of the public records at the courthouse will give the perpetrator enough information to sound convincing, even to the point of passing himself off as the actual owner of the home, name and all. Fake rental contracts can be created to keep the fraud going. But if you send him money you will never see a key. And when you consider that it is normal to ask for a deposit equal to one month's rent and the first month rental payment in advance, we're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of $2500.00. Gone. Good-bye.

You hear this all the time. Never, never, never send money to anyone in advance for anything if you don't know who they are. Reputable businesses sometimes require it but if their only online presence is a listing on a garage sale website, guard your wallet.

Or better yet, stay local. Talk to people you can find after the deal is over. The internet has opened up a wealth of choices for consumers. But it's also been a gold mine for thieves and fraudsters. I cannot count how many e-mails I've gotten from the National Bursar of Nigeria wanting to send me $20 million. After all this time and no reply from me I would have thought he would have spent the money by now. But they just keep coming.

Incidentally, Chinowth & Cohen has a leasing department, too. And all of the houses we have listed are truly available. If you need to lease I can help you with that. Call me at 918-809-5199 and I'll get you in touch with the right person at no charge whatsoever.

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