Richmond realtors seeing a new housing market scam

Scammers are contacting real estate agents and posing as sellers of properties they don’t even own.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 5:17 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A housing market scam is now knocking on Richmond realtors’ doors.

Scammers are contacting real estate agents and posing as sellers of properties they don’t even own.

Richmond Association of Realtors CEO Laura Lafayette says scammers are looking to target properties that don’t have a mortgage, typically vacant lots.

“We’ve actually had a Richmond realtor show up, was taking pictures of a vacant parcel, then a homeowner came out and said, ‘What are you doing?’ The realtor said, ‘I’m getting ready to list this vacant lot,’ then the homeowner was like, ‘I own that vacant lot. You can’t list that lot,” Lafayette said.

Lafayette says they will offer the property below market value for cash to complete the transaction before the true homeowner becomes aware.

She says sometimes they even go through property records to pull personal information that helps them pull off the scam while using fake IDs to appear legitimate.

She says odd communication is a big red flag realtors should look out for.

“You get a text or email. You never talk to the person, they never want to set up a Zoom meeting, they can’t meet with you, they’ll say they’re in a part of the country or out of the country, but it’s very urgent that they want to sell this property,” Lafayette said.

This is one of the many reasons why one local realtor for Long and Foster Real Estate, James Bremm, says he does his research before meeting a seller.

“Unfortunately, with the world that we live in, you have to be over precautious,” Bremm said. “We’re going to do background checks. We’re going to do criminal checks. We’re going to do as much as we can to know who that person is.”

Bremm says while this scam mainly affects your realtor, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to protect yourself.

He says that includes verifying a seller’s identity and having a trust company to help with closing documents and funds.

“Put away and lock up any information you possibly can and put it in a safe. Put your jewelry in a safe, put your medications in a safe. Don’t leave anything to the imagination,” Bremm said.