Why your offer to puchase may be a scam

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Miyuki

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If you are a real estate agent and you have a presence on the internet you are being targeted by fake check scammers.

The ultimate object of the scammer/criminals is to send you a fake check and steal your money. They have been targeting lawyers for about 2 years now and real estate agents for maybe one year or so.

I will ask the questions first that you may ask.

1. Is anyone doing anything about this? Yes. I can’t say any more.
2. How can I protect myself? Basically, delete those emails and don’t respond to them although that may be easier said than done.

So how does this work? The first part begins with a scammer/criminal who is probably in Nigeria. He is known as a “catcher” but unlike in baseball he does not catch. He makes the pitch, in this case a sales pitch. You may get an email from someone who claims to be Asian, probably Japanese or Chinese. Maybe they will say they are in Canada. They will express an interest in a property you have listed, probably a high end property. At least what I think of as high end, larger than a $500,000 one. They will express a willingness to purchase. You will get an email saying that the buyer is willing to pay full price and wants to his broker or lawyer to send you a check for the full amount or at least a large down payment. Soon, a check will arrive in the mail and the check will probably be mailed from Canada. If you want to know where the person is mailing you from, check the email headers. If you don’t know about that, see: http://antifraudintl.org/showthread.php?t=15352

That is because part two takes place in Canada where the fake check maker is located. The catcher will pass you over to the fake check maker once it is time for the money. The scammer/criminal in Canada will manufacture a fake check and send it to you, probably by mail. However they do use delivery services like UPS from time to time. Once you get the “check” you are asked to deposit it.

Then comes stage 3. Your purchaser is going to send you an email which will say:
a) I changed my mind and I don’t want the property,
b) my son/daughter is dying of cancer and I need the money for treatment,
c) my father/mother is dying of cancer and I need the money for treatment,
d) I am dying of cancer and I need the money for treatment.

Aside from the obvious question of, “hello, do you have health care in your (purchaser) country”, you will be asked to deduct your fees and then forward the money on to some bank account somewhere by wire transfer. This will be before the “check” clears and long before escrow has closed. The bank account may or may not be in the actual name of the person who initially contacted you. The bank account is probably in Asia and it may actually be in the name of a “mule” who uses his or her name to assist the criminals or it may be the name of a company which is a fake company bank account created by the criminals to assist in the money laundering operation. If you send the money, you will have sent your money to a criminal and then you are going to owe the face value of the check to your bank. So as an example, if you get a fake check for $500,000, you are going to send about 90% of that to the criminal and then you will owe that amount to your bank. So in total you would lose almost $1 million on this deal.

So what should you do?

1. If you don’t treat emails like that with some caution then now is a good time to start. If you want to know if it’s a real Japanese name, just ask. There's several Japanese here.
2. If the story sounds too good to be true then, as they say, it probably is.
3. If you play along with them for a little while or if you aren’t sure and you decide to drop it later, then they will probably target you again. Just because they didn’t steal your money the first time doesn’t mean you are off the hook. They will probably try harder the second time.
4. If you already got a check like that treat it like it is radioactive. Call the bank, let them know what is going on and please do NOT send any money. No one is dying of cancer and they cannot take legal action against you for not sending money. Besides, they are criminals. They aren’t going to walk into a courtroom, except as a defendant and, with any luck, that will be happening soon.
 
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