Real estate investors are looking for desirable properties at a low price, but beware — some will take undesirable measures to find a good deal. We have all seen the “we buy houses” signs on the roadside. Maybe you have received cold calls with offers to buy your home. These are not considered best practice in the real estate world, as these will usually be lowball offers, but are technically legal and legitimate. Now, fraudsters are increasingly finding ways to spin this concept into a real scam.

TNS has identified a recent increase in the number of bad actors performing a scam based on “we buy houses”. Whether the approach is simply opportunistic or carefully orchestrated is unclear. The caller may just be autodialing to see who they can catch, or they may have done research to find houses for sale or property owners in up-and-coming neighborhoods. The latter most likely have not considered selling but may not be able to resist a good offer.

The scammer begins by asking what kind of property you own and if you are interested in selling it, attempting to make the call sound legitimate. Then they will make a bogus offer, possibly one you cannot refuse. The catch – there is an “administrative fee” which, after being paid, results in the bad actor riding off into the sunset. Legitimate buyers would not ask for a fee to paid on the initial offer, so if this happens, hang up immediately.

If you are selling your house, make sure to work with trustworthy professionals and be on the lookout for real estate scams. A bad actor may be too eager to buy the house sight unseen.  Never give out your personal information or pay unwarranted fees over the phone, as it is most likely a scam. The FBI reported in its 2020 Internet Crime Report that more than $213 million was lost to real estate and rental fraud that year.

If you receive a call which you believe to be from a scammer, report it via the FCC website or your state Attorney General website to help combat this activity.

In addition, consumers can protect themselves by leveraging robocall detection solutions powered by TNS Call Guardian. In these trying times, vigilance is even more important than before; be smart and stay safe.

Jim Tyrrell is Senior Director of Product Marketing at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Communications Market solutions.