Beware -- Real Estate Computer Crimes on the Rise

Learn how to stay safe from the latest real estate computer crimes

Whether you are renting property you own or you're looking for a home to rent, you need to be aware of the latest in computer crimes. There are three different types of computer crime circulating on the Internet, both involve real estate, and unless you're careful, you could become the latest victim.

Real Estate Computer Crime Fraud

Scenario #1

The first crime involving real estate and the Internet happens when you have a home for rent and have listed it in online classifieds. The scammer contacts you pretending he is interested in renting your property.

You both agree on the rent and the scammer mails you a check. Here's where it gets tricky. The check you receive for the scammer isn't the correct amount. You let him know and tell him you'll give him a refund.

Here's the problem. Banks don't usually place a hold the checks. You withdraw the money and give the cash back to the scammer only to find out later the check is bad. By the time you make the discovery, the scammer is gone with the cash.

Scenario #2

This is basically the same as the first scenario except the scammer tells you he changed his mind and needs the money for his check returned. You give him the full amount back and later find out the check was bad.

Scenario #3

This internet computer crime is a reversal of the other two. In this scenario, the scammer is pretending to be the property owner. The scammer duplicates real listings from online ads, sometimes even using the broker's real name. He then posts these ads online.

You, the victim, contact him through his online ad because you are interested in renting the property.

The scammer tells you he and his wife are on a missionary trip in a foreign country and need to rent their house while they are gone. You are then asked to send your check to an address in a foreign country. Of course, not until after the scammer cashes your check do you find out the scammer isn't the real owner of the property.

Protect Yourself from Computer Crimes

There are several ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to these scams. First, if you rent property and a potential renter asks for a refund, tell him you'll be more than happy to give him a refund but only after the check clears the bank.

Don't assume the check has cleared. Always talk to bank personnel, explain the situation and make sure they verify the check is good.

If you are trying to rent an apartment or home and the owner asks you to mail the check to a foreign country, red flags should immediately go up. Never send a check for rental property to another country. If you find yourself in this situation, don't rent from this person regardless of how honest and sincere they sound.

There are many different types of computer crimes. Stay up-to-date on the latest crimes by subscribing to and follow these tips to protect yourself. By doing this you can make sure you aren't the latest victim of computer crimes involving real estate.

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