Scams 101

Sabrina Blair
By Sabrina Blair

Robbing banks is so yesterday! Today’s criminals can make far more money with far less personal risk by using technology to persuade unsuspecting victims to send funds their way.

Tech Support

“Hello, this is Mark from Microsoft. We have detected a virus on your computer, and we need to fix it immediately!” Do not assume that scammers always use high-tech means to scam you. Some scammers are old-fashioned and are targeting individuals over the phone. With a sense of urgency, they ask for access to your computer. Once they have gained access, they either download a virus to your computer or lie about one they have removed. The goal is to persuade you to pay them to “fix” your computer. If you receive a telephone call from anyone claiming to be an IT professional and asking for access to any of your electronic devices, hang up!

Tip: Once you have hung up, if your phone stores the telephone numbers for past callers, use this information and the Internet to see what fraudulent activity others may have reported for the telephone number from which this call came.

Wire Fraud

Hackers are waiting in the wings for just the right moment to take over an agent’s email and send fraudulent wire instructions to the client. The result is that large sums of money are wired to a foreign bank account, and the client’s account is swept clean before anyone detects the discrepancy. Before you send money anywhere by wire, verify the wire instructions—or any subsequent change in those instructions—in person. If you suspect wire fraud, contact the Real Estate Fraud Unit at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The telephone number is 714-834-3600.

Craigslist Rental Scams

Pay close attention to any vacant property you have on the market. Enterprising scammers are using vacant homes to scam renters out of thousands of dollars! These unscrupulous individuals post rental ads on Craigslist or other rental websites, claiming to be either the owner of, or the listing agent for, the property. When a prospective renter contacts them about the property, they say they are out of town and ask that a deposit be wired to them to hold the property. Once the scammer has the money, both the scammer and the money quickly disappear. If you suspect a scam of this kind, file a report with your local police department. You can also contact Craigslist or the rental website to ask that the listing be removed.

Tip: Keep a close eye on your listings with Google Alerts. Learn more at

Phishing Texts

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently announced that members were being targeted with fraudulent text messages claiming they owe fines. The texts state that, as the result of a violation or inappropriate behavior, the recipient must pay a fine. For “convenience,” the text includes a link to pay online. NAR has confirmed that these text messages are fraudulent and reported them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). If you receive a suspicious text or email, do not click on the links, open any attachments, or respond by supplying any information. Instead, contact your IT professional for guidance and report any scams to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at