Social Skills: How to Spot Real Estate Scams

By Liz Dominguez

Scams no longer take place solely on email and by phone. According to Statista, over 2.5 billion people worldwide used social media in 2018. This, unfortunately, provides the perfect grouping of unsuspecting victims for scammers. While many post on social media daily, the majority of users have difficulty spotting scams before they've been compromised—and within the real estate space, users can lose out on more than just data, risking not only their safety, but their belongings and money, as well.
Here's what real estate agents and consumers should look out for on social media:
Fake Listings and Rentals
There's a reason for the saying, "It's too good to be true." Oftentimes, consumers see a rental or listing for an incredible, low price. While the photos may look great on Facebook and Instagram, this should be the biggest indicator that the property may not be legitimate. Where renters or buyers have to be most wary is communicating with the "agent" or "owner" who posted the listing. If there are any requests to wire funds up front, or for sensitive information such as Social Security numbers before even seeing the property, consumers should walk away and report the incident to the police.
This is where working with a vetted real estate agent comes in handy. They can help consumers determine if a listing is legitimate or if it appears to be a scam. Additionally, agents work with other licensed agents who are listing rentals or properties for sale, ensuring transactions and all involved parties are valid and safe. By working with unvetted online leads, consumers put themselves at risk. 
Scammers Impersonating Agents or Buyers/Renters
This can go both ways. With social media, it can be difficult to vet an individual. Anyone can go online and say they are a real estate agent or someone who is looking to buy or rent real estate. Social media users today need to be savvy when hiring someone or deciding to work with them.
Consumers looking to hire an agent should look for the following warning signs:
  • No formal business page
  • A lack of online reviews
  • No link to a website with their license number
  • No references to real estate on their social media pages
  • An unwillingness to meet in person 
For agents hoping to find clients via social media, these are the red flags:
  • Profiles that are relatively sparse and don't have a single personal picture
  • Accounts that were recently created
  • Individuals against providing information to run a credit report
  • Buyers who refuse to be vetted by a lender before looking at homes
  • Individuals who will not verify their identity with an ID before seeing a home 
In essence, individuals should never meet someone in person without first identifying who they are speaking with. Agents meeting with leads they connected with via social media should notify their office of their meeting place and time, as well as provide them with the names of the people they are meeting. On the consumer side, money should never change hands before a property viewing and until legitimate contracts are involved.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia's associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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