Real Estate Scam – Fraud – Real Estate Agents Beware!
See the attached email below. Please beware of these scams. While most of you certainly can recognize a scam like this in seconds, there are many who have fallen victim to these emails in our business due to the desperation of needing a sale, and technological naivety. The fact is that these scammers have found a goldmine with the Real Estate agent community. In several articles I’ve read online, they thrive on the gullibility of sales people who “want/need to make a sale”.
I was able to unlock the normally unseen private “header” to this email that I received today and find the actual IP address the email came from and then I did a simple google search and found countless articles about scams coming from this location/IP address in Malaysia!! Then I checked it at http://www.nextwebsecurity.com and found that the owner of the IP address isn’t the sender or even the company/business he says he works at and NOT the address in his email signature line. My curiosity lead me to dig a little deeper. The owner of the IP address is NOT Peter Chin. Googling the actual owners name unveiled hundreds of reports of scams originating from him. I ran the location and got the Latitude and Longitude and searched it on Google Earth. The location is the “Masjid Pakistan”, according to Google, a Mosque in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. For fun, I attached a picture of where these emails are actually coming from. Clearly this is not the “Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water” or Peter Chin, Engineer, as the email says. And I seriously doubt he is planning to buy a home in Yorba Linda California! Putting it all together brings only one answer to the mystery: Internet Scammer! This took me less than 5 minutes folks!
I share this detail with you to attempt to remove any doubt in your minds as to the reality of these scams and how prevalent they are and easy to uncover with a little web savvy. I’m hoping that by actually seeing the location that this makes it real to everyone that these are not just myths.
So here’s how the scam works….
1. This kind of email goes out. Sometimes they even have a particular property in mind and ask specific questions about the location. Example: “I know there are railroad tracks behind the tract, is there an issue with train noise?” or “When I drove by, I noticed that the homes are close together, how does that effect value? Can I offer less?” This makes it seem like they have actually been to the house and wish to actually negotiate. That knowledge give them credibility with MOST agents believe it or not. They will even talk about the local school or stores. How do they know so much detail? They simply use Google Maps and Google Earth to get crystal clear aerial views of the home, neighborhood and local area.
2. The real estate agent responds to their inquiry and gives answers. In many cases this trading of emails with questions and answers will go on 3 or 4 times. This is all about building ONLINE RAPPORT and TRUST with you.
3. They will sometimes wait until you begin selling to them and asking them if they want to make an offer or see the home. Or they will just jump in to their story which usually entails some reason they cannot see you in person; Traveling abroad, sick, busy, etc. etc. etc. but that they definitely want to write an offer. Sometimes full price, sometimes a little less than full price, but make no mistake, they want to get the offer accepted. They will want you to use Docusign, or fax. For the deposit, they will either tell you that they will mail a “cashiers check” directly to the escrow company or to you once the offer is accepted for a very large sum of money, i.e. 30,40,50% of the sales price. For many agents, this will seem like a “no brainer”. A cashiers check for 50% of the sales price! Wow! What a great buyer. Oh, and they are buying cash or getting a loan from their private bank in China, London, Canada, Switzerland, etc. The agents often figure, that with that much cash down and a cashiers check for 50% there’s no need for anything else. By the way, they have great pre-qual letters, proof of funds, bank statements, etc. Don’t be fooled by them! They’re all fake!
4. Once you’re in escrow for 2,3,even 4 weeks and the seller starts pushing for them to close or remove contingencies, they send an email profusely apologizing for having to cancel the escrow due to some unforeseen event. Often times, they will say that something that happened on the news recently that they know you had to have heard as well, is why. Ex. The stock market crashing, etc. Again, for credibility. Or they will just say that they have an emergency and can’t close.
5. Now that the seller is upset, and the agents are upset that they are canceling, another email goes out and they “feel so bad that they would like to compensate the seller and even the agents for their time, so to please draw up cancellation instructions returning all but $10,000 to the seller, and $5000 to each of the agents, and then to WIRE the balance to their bank account or overnight a check”. This sounds like a great deal to all parties and everyone always agrees! If the seller or agents want more, they will always agree to a little more.
6. SOME ESCROW companies do not have redundant systems to verify the clearance of cashiers checks, and it can take banks a very long time to get final notification of a fraudulent cashiers check. Since these fake cashiers checks are always drawn on foreign banks, the delay can be longer than the 3,-4 week period everyone is in escrow. These escrow companies who aren’t savvy in these types of scams, end up wiring the balance to the scammers account and the money is GONE! Since there was no REAL money in the account from that cashiers check, the escrow company ends up wiring some other clients money or their own money and then the kaos begins!
7. No one ever hears from that buyer again, and an expensive lesson is learned.
THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO A LOCAL NORTH ORANGE COUNTY ESCROW FIRM IN THE PAST YEAR
The other painful issue is of course that the sellers house has been kept off of the market, they are planning their move, sometimes packed up their house, etc. and now blame the agents for not seeing through what quickly becomes an obvious scam with tons of red flags that should have been noticed, and tons of simple questions that should have been asked.
The good news is that if you use Traditional Escrow they WILL catch it! They know what to look for and will sound the alarm bells if something smells fishy.
If you want some mid day or random entertainment, you can go to http://www.thescambaiter.com and see how this group has had some fun with turning the tables on these scammers and putting them through the hoops. There’s a ton of examples of what the fake cashiers checks look like, and examples of all of the other scams out there roaming the internet that mostly originate from places like Nigeria and Malaysia. They make these crooks send pictures of themselves in compromising situations, wearing funny clothes, doing ridiculous things, all in the hopes that this is a real victim about to send them a payday. It is scary and hilarious at the same time, but mostly it opens your eyes to how rampant and successful these scams are.
I hope this email will keep you all from falling victim to one of these scams!
Vice President, Sales
Prudential California Realty
22800 Savi Ranch Pkwy. Suite 110-A
Yorba Linda CA. 92887
DRE Lic# 01145769
Begin forwarded message:
From: “Peter Chin Kui”
Date: September 27, 2011 7:45:57 AM PDT
Hello How Are You Doing I Am looking for Real Estate Agent That Can Help Me to buy a new House
ENGR. Peter Chin Fah Kui
DIRECTOR PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION,
MINISTRY OF ENERGY, GREEN TECHNOLOGY AND WATER (KeTTHA)
NO. 16-20, FIRST FLOOR
JALAN PJS 9/2
46150 PETALING JAYA