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MEMBER ALERT: Warning of Fake Buyers in Real Estate Transactions

WVMLS is warning its members to be aware of ‘fake buyers’. Recently, there have been cases of reported fake buyers attempting to get money through a real estate transaction.

Their intended goal: They are hoping escrow will deposit their check. They can terminate the transaction and request a 'refund' check. By the time it gets figured out that the funds are not good, they are long gone.

Some red flags that may help identify a fake buyer are:

  • The buyer only makes contact via email and/or text message.

  • The buyer is willing to trust an agent they found on the internet without having a conversation or meeting in person.

  • There's a storyline pattern similar to the following: The buyer is out of country or away from the area for a period of time. Their story also displays many twists and turns, including time zone differences, details about travel and/or jet lag, and other complications that pose obstacles to having a conversation over the phone. In some cases, they may even refer you to speak with a third party on their behalf.

  • The buyer wants to purchase a property sight unseen, sometimes in a community that they know nothing about. The buyer may also omit to ask questions that a typical buyer would ask.

  • They may be eager to overshare financial arrangements or provide official-looking documentation, such as forged bank letters.

  • They insist on you downloading documents before continuing, they may refer to them as "house hunting documents".

In all cases, it is important to practice due diligence and ensure you verify the identity of a prospective client. Below are some suggested best practices:

  • Confirm all documentation (ie: driver’s license, government-issued-ID) to ensure identity, especially if you don’t meet the client in person and are dealing exclusively via email or text message.

  • Avoid sending or sharing sensitive information via email.

  • Verify with the bank that the funds have cleared before completing a transaction.

  • Trust your instinct. If something seems off with the client or transaction, practice further due diligence before proceeding.

Be aware that these scams can be extremely convincing, and are becoming more frequent, and are constantly evolving. Always report this type of fraudulent activity to the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) or FBI. Also, sign up for email alerts with the DOJ's Scam Alert Network. Being vigilant, thinking critically, and using best practices for knowing your client is the best defense against fraud.


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