Real Estate Scam

On Monday May 11, 2020 a North Middleton Township resident reported they were in the process of purchasing a property in another county through a realtor.  The resident had deposited $1,000 for the property and was awaiting settlement to occur the week of May 11, 2020.  On March 28, 2020 they received an e-mail from a person posing as their realtor stating they needed to wire $110,000.00 to be put into escrow to go forward with settlement.  The $110,000.00 was wired on March 30, 2020 and was later discovered that the emails and recipient of the funds were not legitimate and they were a victim of a scam.  The true realtor's email and the scam email were very similar with a character added and a different email service provider at the end.  The US Secret Service in Newark, New Jersey are investigating this and similar incidents involving this recipient. 

Thieves will take advantage of any situation or crisis to separate you from your money.  Many realtors advise not to reply to email requests for wire transactions and most real estate transactions are done by certified bank check.  Any wire transfers should be confirmed by speaking directly to your realtor, agent, or attorney directly, not by email or text.  It's better to have the settlement delayed, than having your money being sent to a thief far away.  In many of these cases the money is not recovered, leaving the victim taking a substantial financial loss.  The stolen money many times ends up in overseas accounts or crypto currency and is difficult or impossible to trace.  Criminals hacking into email accounts is a common way of inserting themselves into transaction communications, posing as a legitimate sender.  Look for any differences in the email address compared the legitimate sender's address.  If in doubt speak to your contact directly in person or voice communication, not using the contact information on the suspicious email.

Other common scams going around:

Pet Scams:  The scammer posts advertisements for puppies or other pets, usually on line.  You contact them and the scammer asks you to send them money by Western Union, Money Gram, or internet payment services, like Cash App, ect.  After you send the payment for the pet, the scammer will often contact you again.  Scammer will advise that you have to pay shipping fees to a shipping company, which is fake. You send the money and the pet never shows up.   Or you are given an address to pick the animal up.  You arrive to find a vacant address or the resident having no idea about having animals for sale.  Many times they use google maps pictures to show the location they are supposedly operating from.  Our department has had several of these fraud reports in the last month, one victim paying $600 and traveling from Wisconsin to pick up a German Shepherd Puppy here on Spring Road.  We recommend using a local reputable breeder or adopt a shelter pet.

Social Security Scam:  You get a call and you're advised your social security number is suspended, there is an active investigation, and there is a warrant out for your arrest.  They may even ask you for your local police department information, this is just to distract your attention.  You are advised to go to a store and purchase gift cards and give them the card information as payment.  Social Security Administration NEVER collects funds this way.

Relative in Jail or Distress:  Scammer calls, texts, or emails you and tells you a relative is in jail or hospital and needs money sent for bail, attorney's fees, medical bills, or other expenses.  Sometimes they try to pose as the relative themselves when contacting you.  The scammer will tell you the relative's phone is broken or not working, to keep you from trying to call them directly.  They will many times request sending cash via overnight mailing service like US Postal Service or Fed Ex to an address.  The mailing address is often a vacant residence or property.  The scammers will also use Western Union, Money Gram to have you send money or may request that you pay by buying gift cards and giving the information over the phone.  

Rental Car Scam:  Scammer calls and tells you there was a vehicle rented in your name and information.  They go on to tell you the car was used in drug smuggling, homicide, or other criminal activity.  They want you to send them money to "take care of the legal issues"  by gift cards, wiring money (Western Union ect)  or sending cash to an address.

Explicit Picture Scam:  You get an email from a scammer telling you they have all of your information and have pictures of you doing sexual acts or have been on sexual type websites.  The scammer tells you that you need to send them money and respond within a specified time period.  If not scammer will send these pictures and information to all of their relatives and contacts.  Do not click on any link in the email and just delete it.  We have had a few of these reported to our department in the last several weeks. 

Overpayment Scam:  Scammer sends you a counterfeit check for an item or service you have advertised on line to sell.  The counterfeit check is made out to you for more than the price you were selling and shipping it for.  The scammer then advises you to deposit the counterfeit check into your bank account and wire the remainder of the money back to them or a shipping service.  It takes your bank a few days to find that the check is fraudulent and you are out the money you sent the scammer and fees associated with the bad check.   

Bank Verification:  Scammer contacts you by phone, email or text asking to verify your debit card or bank account number.  They will pose as a legitimate entity, like a bank.  Financial institutions will not contact you to confirm your account or card information, your legitimate financial institution already has that information.

Sweetheart Scams:  Scammer poses on line and you befriend them.  As you communicate with them they ask you for money for medical bills, bail, travel money to visit you or a sick relative, or other expenses. 

Lottery, Sweepstakes, or Prize Scam:  You receive a letter, email, or text advising you have won a prize.  The scammer advises you that you need to send them money for fees, processing, or taxes to claim the prize.  If you never entered to win this prize it's probably a scam.  Don't get caught up in the excitement of being a winner or you may end up loosing.  

Census Fraud:  With this being a census year look out for scammers posing as Census Bureau employees.  They will try to obtain your personal information to steal your identity or for fraud.  Don't give them your Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers, or information like your mother's maiden name.  If you receive an email from someone posing as the Census Bureau, it's probably a scam.  Census staff / personnel are posted on the Census Bureau staff directory on line.

Criminal scams are as vast as their imagination.  Before sending any money do some research or contact your local law enforcement agency, if in doubt.  

If you receive an internet scam you can report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov