Top tips to avoid property scams
RE/MAX of Southern Africa has received several reports of various real estate agent scams and shared a few tips on how to avoid falling prey to them.
The regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, warned residents to be careful of suspicious online advertising and to ask for an agent’s credentials if they are uncertain.
“Times are tough on a lot of South Africans at the moment, which means we are likely to see an increase in criminal activity as people become desperate. To avoid becoming the next victim of a con artist, always double check the agent’s credentials and be cautious of anyone who reaches out to you over social media or other online platforms,” he said.
He noted the most common way con artists operate is via a fake social media profile where they claim to work for a well-known property group.
“The agents then appear to be legitimised by the brand but are in no way affiliated to the office. The best way to spot these tricksters is to ask which specific RE/MAX office they belong to and then to confirm with that office that such an agent exists. You should also be able to find the agent on the brand’s website. Other giveaways are if the profile is newly created and if there are very few posts and friend connections on the profile,” he warned.
It was reported that in each of the scams, the scammer would attempt to procure money for a property they are not in a legal position to offer for rental or sale.
“The fraudster might place an advertisement for a property or contact a person directly and are usually offering a deal that is too good to be true. Often the advertisement will include photos of the property and, in some cases, the scammer might even include a fake contract that is ready to be signed. The property could either be a real listing copied from property portals, or it could be entirely fictitious,” said Goslett.
After making contact, the scammer will request money to be paid directly into his/her account, usually in the guise of a deposit or possibly the first month’s rent. Once the money has been transferred, the scammer disappears.
What to look out for:
• A reputable agency will be able to provide all of the information about the agent and their listings.
• Avoid transferring money without physically walking through the property yourself.
• Reputable agents have a vetting process, which includes a credit check and other document verifications.
• Be wary of agents who are not able to meet you in person.
“Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to avoid being scammed as con artists are getting increasingly sophisticated. Sometimes, you will just need to trust your gut. If you feel there is something wrong, it is rushed with unwarranted pressure, information is withheld, or it all seems too good to be true – walk away,” said Goslett.