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from Local Attorney, Michael H. Wasserman

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REALTOR ALERT - International Scammers Have You In Their Sights

I previously posted about this last September. It appears that the problem persists, and is worsening:

Last week, WalletPop reported:


The Internet Crime Complaint Center's latest scam alert includes a counterfeit check scheme targeting real estate professionals.

Alerts by the IC3, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center(NW3C), reflect recent cyber-crime trends and new takes on existing scams. Here's a summary of the new threat:


Counterfeit Check Scam Targets Realtors and Real Estate Attorneys

The IC3 says it's received complaints about counterfeit check scams for years, which typically involve criminals convincing unsuspecting victims to cash checks or money orders and then wire them a portion of the funds overseas. Only after wiring the funds do the victims learn the check was fake -- leaving them holding the bag for the full amount.

The latest variation on this scam targets realtors and real estate attorneys, who are being contacted by overseas fraudsters purportedly interested in purchasing property in the U.S.

After requesting information on property listings, the criminals indicate their desire to pay cash for the property they're interested in, and ask the realtors for the name of a local attorney to handle the purchase and conduct the closing.

Once a selling price is negotiated, the real estate attorneys receive checks typically written for hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars. Once the attorney deposits the check -- but before it clears -- the scammers contact them with a plausible reason to wire them a portion of the funds to their account.

The checks used in these scams, the IC3 says, are often from legitimate business accounts that have been appropriated illegally by the fraudsters.

If you think you've been the victim of one of these online scams -- or any other -- you can file a complaint with the IC3 here.