Common real estate scams and how to avoid them

Published 1:49 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Americans lost more than $350 million to real estate fraud scams in 2021, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If you are buying or selling a home, renting out a home or looking to rent, you should be extra vigilant when it comes to scams.

Real estate scammers use various methods to steal your money, personal information, and even the title to your home. Rental scammers may use photos of a home or apartment that have been posted online by a legitimate source, claiming they are the owner.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Some common red flags to watch for include:

• Pressure to act quickly — Scammers try to pressure you into making a decision quickly without giving you time to do your research.

• Offers that seem too good to be true — Be wary of these deals, such as properties offered at prices significantly below market value.

• Requests for money upfront — Scammers may ask for money upfront to cover fees or taxes, or secure a loan or investment.

• Poor grammar or spelling — These errors in an email or text can indicate that the “deal” is not professional or the scammer is located in another country and not fluent in English.

• Asking for payment via suspicious means — Scammers love platforms like CashApp, Venmo, Zelle, Western Union, etc., because payments are treated like cash and cannot be easily reversed.

• The details don’t add up — Trust your gut, like if someone is overly vague or speaks in contradictions.

• Offering an all-cash payment or more money than you are asking for — Unless you are in a bidding war, this is a sign of an overpayment scam.

• Asking for payment on a property you haven’t seen — Rental scammers may ask for application fee, a deposit, first month’s rent, or a combination of these.

• Refusing to share necessary paperwork until after receiving payment or financial information.

If you believe yourself to be the victim of a scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency, to the website where the ad was posted (if you found it online), and to the Federal Trade Commission at

Information from,, and the Federal Trade Commission.