Cybercrime runs rampant in Real Estate

    Seeff comments on the necessity of cyber alertness for property transactions.

    The transition from using digital and Proptech has hastened significantly since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has streamlined searching for property. 

    However, a downside has made cybercriminals grow wiser and capitalise on this opportunity. And for this reason, we advise landlords, tenants, buyers, sellers and property practitioners to exercise caution and remain alert.

    The simple act of clicking on a link that appears legitimate and entering your bank password or transferring the deposit meant for your home into a fake account will leave you with shattering repercussions.

    Cybercriminals and fraudsters continue to innovate and find new ways to scam you just as quickly as the loopholes close; in light of this, we outline some of the more prevalent property scams to watch out for: 

    Fake Property News

    One of the most common property scams is fake property news; these phoney news stories make outrageous claims regarding how the market performs in a particular area. If you do not remain vigilant, they can use this twisted information to deceive you. 

    We advise you to ignore these fake news articles and only consume news from a property authority. You can also contact a local reputable property practitioner to learn more about the market or properties available for rent or purchase.

    It would help if you also remained cautious with con landlords or sellers. Especially those who claim they are travelling or living abroad while renting or selling their property; to avoid any dubious conduct, you should validate their identity, the location of the property, and the ownership thereof. If the landlord cannot verify any facts about the property, we advise you to avoid them altogether. There are many acceptable alternatives available in the property market.

    Fake Property Property Practitioners

    Another scam you must avoid is that of a fake property practitioner, especially those who offer low commission or claim to sell your property at a higher price; you should always validate their authenticity before engaging in any transaction. Always verify they have authentic PPRA registration and a legitimate Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC). 

    Fake News

    Fraudulent Property Advertisements

    Another common property scam is fraudulent property advertisements, which seek to entice you into handing over your money. These adverts often contain duplicate photos and information from other well-established listings and sometimes present lower prices. Only entertain adverts that feature on authoritative websites and recognised property portals. If it looks too cheap or the offer is too good to remain true, it's likely a fraudulent piece of communication. 

    It would help if you continuously verified tenants or buyers with mortgage-approved offers or upfront cash offers. Allowing that tenant into your property could cost you more than money and put you in a stressful eviction situation and unnecessary property damage. 

    Delay stunts and excuses are other tactics that cybercriminals use; this could result in an illegally-published property advert or one published without authorisation from a certified property practitioner. They use these tactics to acquire your bank details or transfer payments into the wrong hands. In this case, remain patient and search for a safe opportunity. 

    Cybercriminals also send fraudulent emails, SMS and Whatsapp messages daily. Don't click on any attachments sent to you unless you know the original sender of the file. Reputable agents will provide a legitimate email address, and you must always validate the sender's address and identity.  

    Finally, it would help if you exercise caution when there are no physical meet-ups. A legitimate agent will take the initiative to introduce themselves to you and not merely send a message or email telling about a potential tenant or buyer. Ensure you verify that the property exists and secure clarity on the agent's legitimacy before moving forward. 

    We advise you to avoid allowing strangers into your property for viewing, as there are many cases of criminals acting as potential buyers or tenants. The next best alternative is to work with a trusted property practitioner who will manage this process and screen all visitors to reduce the level of risk. 

    Be wary of sending out your bank details and paying deposits or any amount of money unless you met the agent in person, inspected the property, and established the validity of the request. Be particularly careful when you are part of a property transaction and get recommendations from conveyancers or agents. You must verify the legitimacy of any appeal before making a move. 

    We understand that choosing the right property practitioner is a critical first step on the path to successfully selling your home; however with the advent of cybercriminals taking advantage of the online real estate market, it is difficult to know who you can trust.

    At Seeff, home is our story and we don’t want your story to end due to a fraudulent cybercrime; we recommend reading our article on what to expect before approaching a property practitioner to put your mind at ease when beginning this journey to putting your property on the market.

    Author: Seeff Head Office
    Related Articles
    Home is our story logo