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TIPS FOR CALIFORNIA SENIORS TO AVOID
"TARGETED" REAL ESTATE FRAUDS, INCLUDING
THOSE INVOLVING HOME LOANS, RENTALS,
TIMESHARES, PROPERTY RECORDINGS, AND
INVESTMENTS SECURED BY REAL PROPERTY

By Wayne Bell, Real Estate Commissioner - California Bureau of Real Estate

Those who commit fraud often target and exploit senior citizens. The Federal Bureau of
Investigation, in a publication entitled "Common Fraud Schemes - Fraud Target: Senior Citizens", offers the following reasons, among others, that such targeting occurs:

  • Senior citizens are most likely to have a "nest egg," to own their home, and/or to
    have excellent credit-all of which make them attractive to con artists.
  • People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be
    polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or
    impossible for these individuals to say "no" or just hang up the telephone.
  • Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don't know who to
    report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don't know they have
    been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because
    they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental
    capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.

The list of tips provided below has been written and is intended to give you (a California
senior citizen) some essential advice to help protect yourself against such targeted
frauds in the area of real estate, including those relative to home loans, rentals,
timeshares, the recording of false or fictitious deeds or other documents in connection
with your property, and investments/loans purportedly secured by real property.

Our website is www.bre.ca.gov, and we have many consumer alerts and warnings on
real estate and related fraud (some of which focus on the types of frauds discussed

FRAUD AVOIDANCE TIPS
1. Be Vigilant, Diligent and Suspicious, and Proceed Very Cautiously, When Contacted by Strangers.
Unfortunately, real estate fraud schemes are everywhere. You need to play defense,
listen to your inner "uh-oh" voice, and really protect yourself.
You should be skeptical of unsolicited offers of help, or an unwillingness of a person
who has contacted you to meet in person (if you so request) or to put things in writing.
Also, if you are unable to follow the sound advice that you have most certainly given
over the years -- namely, "don't talk with strangers", remember that you do not need to be nice to strangers who contact you, and you can just hang up the phone or just say no to them.
Furthermore, remember that if a person offers to provide real estate services on your
behalf, that person's license identification number must be on the solicitation materials,
including on any advertisements for those services and on the business card he or she
gives to you.

2. Use Only CalBRE Licensees When Engaging the Services of People or
Companies Offering Rental, Home Loan, Foreclosure Rescue, or Other Real
Estate Services on Your Behalf.

3. Never Pay in Cash, or Wire Cash to Anyone, in Connection with Real Estate
Transactions; Also, Be Certain to Protect Your Personal Information, Such
as Social Security Number, So Scammers Cannot Steal Your Identity.

4. Never Pay Anyone for Home Loan or Foreclosure Relief Services in
Advance of Their Successfully Completing the Work you Wanted Them to
Do for You.

5. Never Sign an Agreement for a Real Estate Transaction (including a Rental) or a Home Loan that You Cannot Afford.

6. Never Sign a Real Estate (Including Rental) or Home Loan Agreement that You Do Not Understand or Have Not Read, or Which Contains Blank
Spaces.

Those who commit fraud will often try to get you to act quickly so that you do not have
the time to think about what you are doing.
They will tell you that "you must act now". Do not be fooled into rushing into a scam.
Slow down!

7. Anyone (including Scammers without an Appropriate or Legitimate
California License) Can Advertise on Television or Radio, in Newspapers,
Magazines or on the Internet.

8. Just Because Someone Looks Professional, Sounds Like an Expert, and/or Gives You Confidence in their Real Estate Knowledge, Does Not Mean that
You Can or Should Trust Them.
Scammers are experts in fraud and in gaining your confidence, lulling you into believing
them and the false hope and schemes that they sell to convince you to part with your
money and/or property.
Many of those who commit fraud are good looking and/or quite charming. Their
business is luring people into their schemes.

9. Never Transfer or Sign Your Home Over to any Third Party or Anyone Else
who Claims that such a Transfer can or will Help You Repair Your Credit or
Keep You in Your Home. Also, Never Sign a "Power of Attorney" Giving
Rights to Your Property or Money to Any Individual - or Any Company --
You Do Not Personally Know and Trust.
Scammers will often recommend that you transfer your property deed or title to them,
give them a "power of attorney", and/or encourage you to make your home loan
payments directly to them.
These are sure "red flags" of a fraud.

10. Monitor and Periodically Check the Title to Your Real Estate Holdings, Just Like You Check Your Credit Reports; and Act Immediately if You Detect Fraud.
Monitoring your property title and periodically checking will give you notice if any rogue or unknown deeds or other documents have been recorded against your real property.
If you have been a victim of fraudulent deed or other recordation activity, you must take immediate action, including reporting the activity to government and enforcement
authorities.

11. If Something Sounds Too Good to be True, it Probably Is!
This is a time-tested piece of advice that should be well remembered.

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors
Issued by CalBRE: September 5, 2014

 


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