In property & real estate scam, the scammer claims ownership of a property in order to con their victims out of their money, they sometimes proceed to sell out the same property to multiple people, leaving them in confusion as to who legally owns the property.
How this scam works
They often present their victims with documents which appears to be genuine but are fake.
In most cases, they exploit the emotions of their victims by telling them how desperate they are to get money in to solve an imminent problem such as medical bills, travel expenses etc. They then buttress their point by beating down the price of the property to further convince their victims.
- Demands to send a deposit or down payment sight unseen to secure a property. Interested buyers are told to send a payment or deposit to lock in the deal – then the scammer pulls the ad and vanishes.
- Pressure to act immediately. This is a feature of most scams. Would be victims are warned of dire consequences or the loss of a good deal if they don’t respond right away, take too long to read paperwork or fail to send money.
- Instructions not to consult anyone. Fraudulent companies promising mortgage relief often demand that consumers cut their lawyers, lenders or credit counselors out of the loop and work only with them.
- Lack of paperwork or documentation on the deal. Some scams urge would-be victims to go ahead and send money or sign paperwork, promising that titles, deeds or other documentation are being processed or on the way but they never appear.
- Your “real estate agent” is out of the country. As the internet is becoming more and more integrated into our everyday lives, Nigerian buyers are getting used to online shopping. Local websites are filled with real estate ads in every part of the country. A lot of buyers spot an ad they really like, contact the “seller”, and try to arrange a meeting with them. However, the seller says he’s out of the town or even out of the country, and says his co-worker will show the property to the buyer.
- Buyers meet with the seller’s co-worker, see the property and are very impressed and eager to purchase the property. It turns out that the co-worker doesn’t have the authority to sign the deal, so the seller contacts the buyer and tells them the property is theirs, all they have to do is wire the money to the seller and he’ll give them the keys. As you can guess, after the “seller” gets the money, buyers never hear from him again.
How to protect yourself
- Do not rush the buying/renting process: It is quite possible to find a great deal and you most probably want to act quickly so you don’t lose the offer to someone else but the problem with rushing the buying or renting process is that you have little time to question the real estate transaction.
- Verify the person you’re working with in the real estate transaction: Do not take whoever you are working with at face value ensure you do your research about that person. This is the digital age, check the person online, ask for referrals from other people and review their past works. If your gut feeling tells you something is wrong with the person involved in the real estate transaction, then you need to step back do more research about that person. Don’t work with any person you have no confidence in.
- Ask questions: Ensure to ask a lot of questions especially about any unclear issue about the real estate question. Ask the agent the reason for the sale? When there is not a reason for the sale that can be a red flag. Questions are important because they help reveal inconsistencies in the real estate transactions.If you spot any inconsistencies that cannot be reconciled then you need to rethink your involvement in the real estate transaction.
- Avoid paying cash: If the homeowner or agent is asking you to pay in cash then you should tread carefully of that real estate transaction. The problem with paying in cash is that the money is not traceable unlike paying in a bank. Instead you insist on writing checks or paying at the bank as this means of payment does not leave you hanging dry if the transaction goes wrong. You want to be able to hold someone liable when all is not what they seem; so be careful and avoid payments you can’t trace. If the agent or house owner is unyielding about paying in cash, then you need to step back immediately from that transaction.
- Never skip inspection: A major red flag for any real estate transaction is when the homeowner or agent is trying to discourage you from inspecting the house. If there is nothing suspicious to hide then inspection is not negotiable. Insist on inspection and if not granted by the homeowner or agent then it is advisable to terminate the real estate transaction immediately.
Have you been scammed?
If you think you have scammed in a property or real estate deal, contact the police or other relevant agencies immediately.
We encourage you to report scams to us via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.
We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.
Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.