Safety & Fraud Tips

General safety tips for buyers and renters:

  • Take your time and ask plenty of questions.
  • Be suspicious of any listings that are selling or renting for much lower than market price.
  • Always ask to view the property or vehicle in-person and avoid any situations where the seller or landlord refuses.
  • Never send money to a seller or renter via wire transfer. This is almost always a scam.
  • Don’t trust sellers or landlords who want to use a third-party “escrow” service to “hold” the money during the deal. Scammers will take the money and “disappear”.
  • Don’t give a deposit on property or vehicles that you haven’t seen in-person.
  • Trust your instincts and don’t move forward with any deal that makes you uncomfortable or suspicious.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone or internet.

General safety tips for sellers:

  • Get to know your buyer.
  • Be suspicious of any buyer who offers to pay the asking price on the condition that you go through a certain bank, wire them back extra money, etc.
  • If you’re unsure if something is a scam, continue to ask questions until you’re sure that it’s not.
  • When being paid in cash, take steps to ensure the bills are real. Ask the buyer if you can meet them at a bank or go with them to an ATM.
  • If being paid with a check or money order, wait until the check is cleared to sign over any property or vehicles. If the funds are available in your account, it doesn’t necessarily mean the check was cleared. This could take up to a month. Call your bank if you’re unsure.
  • Don’t respond to emails that are vague and general, have a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes, or that don’t contain a phone number.
  • Don’t trust emails from senders who don’t know information about where they’re supposedly located, that don’t have any interest in seeing the property or vehicle first, or that don´t have interest in discussing documentation.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone or internet.
  • Document everything.
  • Avoid negotiating payment plans with buyers as there is no legal way for you to enforce payment.
  • Don’t let your emotions control the situation. Just because you like a buyer, does not mean you can trust them.
  • Trust your instincts and don’t move forward with any deal that makes you uncomfortable.

Real Estate

Buy and Trade
When buying or trading real estate, always view the property in-person and get to know the real estate agent or owner selling or trading the property. Do a quick internet search to see if this person has scammed other buyers. Also, be sure to ask for the agent’s real estate license to make sure that it hasn’t expired. Ask the agent or owner about the reason for selling or trading the house and if there are any problems you should know about. Lastly, be sure to go through a title company to verify who really owns the property.

Rent
When renting a property, make sure to meet the landlord or agent in-person and view the property. Do an internet search for the landlord and/or agent, searching their name, phone number, and email to verify their identity and make sure they’re the owner or managerof the property. Lastly, take photos of the property before rental and report any damages. After the rental, take photos of the property to protect yourself in case you are accused of damages. Read the rental agreement carefully and ask questions about anything that isn’t clear.

Sell
When selling real estate, get to know your buyer and encourage them to ask questions about the property. When showing your property to potential buyers, it’s best to use the buddy system. Have a neighbor or friend help you and only accept showings by appointment. If vacant, don’t keep any valuables on the property. It’s also recommended to ask for identification and to keep a log of visitors.

Vehicles

Buy and Trade
When buying or trading vehicles, always meet the seller or owner and see the vehicle in-person. Ask plenty of questions and inspect the vehicle (or bring someone with you who can). Make sure that the person trading or selling you the vehicle is the owner or that you meet the owner.

Rent
When renting a vehicle, always do a safety check before leaving the parking lot. Take photos of and document any damage on the vehicle before leaving and report it to the owner. Additionally, take pictures after the rental for your own records. Read the rental agreement carefully and ask questions about anything that isn’t clear.

Sell
When selling a vehicle, be suspicious of any buyer who has no interest in seeing the vehicle in-person. Ask for identification from the buyer so that you know they are who they say they are. Meet the buyer in a public place. Only sign over the title after you have received payment and be sure to fill out a Bill of Sale and a Release of Liability.

Watercraft and Aircraft

Buy and Trade
When buying or trading watercraft or aircraft, call the seller or owner and ask questions. Ask for the location and, for watercraft, also ask for the HIN (Hull Identification Number). Always make sure that the seller or owner has the proper documentation for the watercraft or aircraft. Have the craft inspected and ask about any potential problems or past maintenance. For aircraft, do an FAA title search just before closing the deal.

Rent
Renting watercraft and aircraft can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to talk with someone who has experience in the area. As when renting anything, be sure to document and take photos of any pre-existing damage and report it to the owner. Also, take any photos after the rental for your own records. Lastly, read the rental agreement carefully and ask about anything that’s unclear. Make sure that the owner has the proper documentation for the watercraft or aircraft.

Sell
When selling aircraft or watercraft, be suspicious of any person who has no interest in seeing the craft in-person. Ask for proper identification, which in this case should also include a boating license or a pilot’s license, depending on local laws. Don’t sign anything over until you have received the money.
Remember to trust your gut feeling. Don’t move forward with anything that makes you uncomfortable or suspicious. Buying, selling, trading, and renting can be an exciting and great experience if done safely. Lastly, remember to enjoy! To report cases of fraud please contact your local law enforcement.

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