In the past couple of months I have seen some information about scams that can have a very damaging effect on you if you get taken by them. By being aware of these scams you can avoid becoming a victim of them and, in doing so, protect what you’ve worked so hard for.
Home Theft Scam
I was sent an email from my sister in Los Angeles which contained a warning from the local police department about thieves robbing homes using a scam. Someone would come to the front door of the person’s house saying they cut a neighbor’s tree and wanted to make sure none of the branches fell in their yard. When they went with the homeowner to their back yard, the thief took them around the side of the house so that the burglary ‘crew’ could go into the house and rob them.
I recently went out to get my mail and someone driving in a truck stopped and told me he did tree trimming and that the mango tree in the back of my house was dying and needed to be cut down. There is no mango tree in back of my house but there is an avocado tree which looks like it is dying so I don’t know if this was a tree trimmer who wrongly identified the type of tree or someone pulling this same kind of scam – either way, I told him I wasn’t interested and walked away.
I also heard from a client recently who bought a home on a street where the homes were not very close to each other and as they were removing groceries from their car a lady approached them, walking into their garage, and said she was from ADT and was there to do an in-home evaluation since they had indicated at their closing they wanted someone to do that. They had not made any such request and I found out that this is something that security system company salespeople are doing more and more. In some cases they even try to scare a homeowner into signing up by telling them about break-ins in their neighborhood (that never happened). But this could also potentially have been a scam being pulled by a robbery crew that just wanted to get access to their home.
Fortunately my client escorted this lady out of their garage and told her to leave the property (and got copies of her IDs). It appears this was an aggressive salesperson but it could have been someone pulling a scam like I described above.
See the end of this article for tips on home burglary prevention that were sent to my sister from the Glendale Police Department.
Wire Transfer Scam
I have seen several articles about this now and it is something that has happened in Florida and is occurring more frequently now. Here is how the scam works:
Hackers get access to a Realtor’s computer or email account and find out about an upcoming closing. They get the name of the buyers, their email address, the address of the property, the closing date and sometimes even see the amount the buyer needs to send in closing funds. Then they ‘spoof’ the Realtor’s email account so they can send out emails that look like they come from the Realtor. Spoofing of an email account is not hard to do and has been being done for years now, but what it is being used for here is criminal.
Once the hacker (criminal) gets the info they then go into action to steal the buyer’s closing funds. A day or two before (closing they send an urgent email to the buyer which appears to come from the Realtor which says that the wire instructions for sending the closing funds have changed and send an attachment with new wire instructions. Those instructions are to a bank account the hackers have set up for this scam and unsuspecting buyers who use these instructions to wire the funds lose 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars and are unable to get them back because the hacker’s bank account is closed by them almost immediately.
To prevent this from ever happening to you, I recommend that you phone your Realtor and the company doing the closing to verify wire instructions before wiring any closing funds no matter who sent you the wire instructions. It is unfortunate that this now has to be part of the process but when dealing with a large sum of money you need to take every precaution.
(By the way, even before I found out about this scam I had security measures in place so that it is unlikely that anyone can get access to my computer or my email account.)
Advice from the Glendale, CA Policy Department – Home Burglary Prevention
1. Always keep all doors, windows, and garages locked whether you are home or not.
2. Install an alarm system.
3. Check screens on windows and doors for cuts, openings, slits, and holes. Ensure that the screen is secure and without damage.
4. Install interior light timers and exterior motion sensor lights to give the appearance of occupancy even when you are not home.
5. Keep your landscape, including all bushes and trees, trimmed to avoid potential hiding places for invaders.
6. Keep blocking devices, such as metal bars or track blockers on all sliding glass doors.
7. Use crime prevention or alarm system decals on windows that are easily accessible.
8. Never leave packages or other deliveries sitting at your front door. When you are away for a length of time, have a neighbor collect your mail and newspaper to avoid the appearance of vacancy.
9. Call a family meeting to discuss home safety and security and alert your neighbors if you see suspicious activity.
10. Never open the door for a stranger, and always ask for a proof of identification if they claim to be a delivery person, repair man, etc., before opening the door.
11. Photocopy all important documents and keep the copies in a safety deposit box.
12. Always remember to stay aware of your surroundings.