Real Estate and Online Property Scams
Looking for a property online has become a risky business. The internet has been a great help in real estate because it provides realtors with a way to further connect with clients even on a long distance, and therefore to boost their real estate marketing efforts. However, investigators in the Philippines say the same techniques used by realtors are now being widely used by online scammers to trick people into buying or renting property that does not exist, or is simply not in the market.
The Philippines has been a real estate destination since long ago. Seniors in the United States and Europe plan to buy property and retire in the sunny Philippines beaches, and most of the times the process begins with an online search. From that moment on, the risks just increase. Property scammers build a relationship of trust with their victims, just as advance fee fraudsters do. With the help of other available resources at the Philippines, like forged documents and corrupt people working in the government offices, fraud is just a few steps away.
Some of the new trends and apps have also contributed making fraud even easier. Websites like Airbnb let people post rental properties without conducting any real background check on the property or the owner. In most of these cases there is a fake sense of security, given by the fact that the websites promise their customers to return their money if the property is not what was advertised. But getting the money back is not always a solution. Imagine what it is to never find the property where you were supposed to stay at and to be stranded out in the streets of Manila, with bags and probably a family to take care of. This happens on a daily basis to many people who are victim to Airbnb scams, and all these victims will have to face higher costs than expected to find a last minute hotel and transportation, not to mention the risks of not finding a place and the dangers of being out in the streets of a foreign city.
That is why Philippines investigators have put together a list of tips that anyone can follow in order to avoid being a victim:
Don’t fall for fancy photos
A scammer will always use the best photographs because they need to capture their victims from the very first time they see the property. Victims have to fall in love with the property, so they will sure post the nicest property photos along with a deal that cannot be turned down. Do not make an impulsive decision based on the beauty of the property, you first need to be well informed.
Ask many questions
Request everything you need to know before renting or even before scheduling a travel to see the property you want to buy. In the case of long term or temporary rentals through online websites, some of these do not let owners or realtors post the exact address. Ask for it before going any further and make sure a local investigator can visit the property to make sure it is real and a place where you would like to stay at.
In case you are intending to purchase the property, request copies of the deed, the exact address, copy of an ID of the owner, and just as much information as you can. The next step would be to request a professional investigator in the Philippines to verify all the information at the proper authorities. Having a professional third party conduct a local investigation will avoid being tricked with forged documents.
There’s no free lunch
Scammers will make offers people want to believe are true. So the next time you see a fabulous luxury property right in front of the beach in Boracay for a small price, be skeptical. Scammers will want their victims to feel pressure and make a decision fast because this is a once in a life time opportunity. What they are really trying to do is minimize the chances of their victims to find out about the fraud.
Take your time to research, and contact us for professional assistance with verifying any property or property owner in the Philippines. Be safe, and make a smarter investment.
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