Protecting ourselves from power shifts in real estate

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 3:14pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- The real estate industry is going to become more polarized, with discount brokerages at one end and luxury, high-service brokerages at the other. This prediction came from the Inman Connect stage, where a high-level panel -- including Dolly Lenz (Dolly Lenz Real Estate), Ken DeLeon (DeLeon Real Estate), The Agency's Mauricio Umansky and Redfin's Glenn Kelman -- discussed major power shifts in real estate ...
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You don’t need to advertise a good party

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 3:11pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Usually, only one of two things happens to an ugly T-shirt -- it ends up in the trash or in the depths of a drawer never to be seen again. But for CloseSimple founder Bill Svoboda, an ugly T-shirt inspired him to create a 15-year business that he runs today alongside his platform that simplifies the real estate closing process ...
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The Braveheart approach: risking it all in business

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 2:57pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- For David Smith, real estate is simple -- "[It's] people over property," he said to the crowd of eager listeners at Inman Connect ...
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Robots vs. real estate agents: Surviving an automated future

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 2:11pm
An open house with $1 sensors in every room ensuring that browsers opening up closets and cabinets aren't taking anything with them. Peace of mind when you're signing a real estate contract that it is along the same lines as other contracts in your market (and that the terms are best of breed). These are examples of how technology could solve problems in real estate, and they're all within the boundaries of today's AI potential ...
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Fraud Alert: Fake Checks Used for a Variety of Costly Scams

American Apartment Owners Association - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 2:01pm

Despite what you might think, it isn’t easy to spot a counterfeit check. Fraudsters know how to make a fake check look completely legitimate — so good that even a bank teller can’t spot it.

That’s why fraudsters are using fake checks to commit all sorts of scams, including security deposits, phony prize awards, fake job offers, mystery shopper scams, and bogus online classified ad sales.

Find out if your tenant has written bad checks with AAOA’s TeleCheck report.


“This scam comes in many different variations” said John Breyault, who runs the National Consumers League’s website. “But the key thing that binds them all together is the use of a fake check. The consumer is instructed to deposit that check into their personal account and then send a portion of the proceeds to someone right away.”

Most victims are instructed to send the money via a wire transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram. But some are told to buy prepaid debit cards or iTunes gift cards that they can use to buy things.

When the bank discovers the check is counterfeit — which could be days or weeks later — that deposit is removed from the victim’s checking account. The crooks already have their money and the poor consumer is left holding the bag.

Earlier this year, the Better Business Bureau released a list of the Top 10 Most Risky Scams based on an analysis of complaints collected through its online Scam Tracker. Fake check scams came in at number two, just behind home improvement scams. That ranking is based on how many people are targeted by the scam, how likely they are to fall for it and how much money the average victim loses.

“This is definitely a very, very serious concern right now,” said Emma Fletcher, director of scam and fraud initiatives at the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust. “The typical loss to a scam that’s reported to us is about $275, but with fake check scams the median loss is almost $1,500. That’s a lot of money.”

While anyone can fall for a fake check scam, the BBB’s analysis shows that men between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most susceptible. This is also the top scam for students, and military families and veterans.

These Crooks Are Clever

Fake checks are commonly used to steal money from people who want to become mystery shoppers. Kathy, who lives in Dallas, Texas, got taken for $2,650 this way. She asked that we not use her last name.

“What these crooks are doing is disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” Kathy told NBC News. “They’re really clever and they need to be brought to justice.”

Kathy had done mystery shopping before, so she wasn’t surprised to get an email from a mystery shopping company asking her to do some work for them.

“The email seemed totally legit and everything on the website seemed on the up and up, so I didn’t question it. There were no warning signs,” she said.

Kathy’s first assignment as a “survey agent” was to rate money transfer companies. The mystery shopper scammers sent her a check for $2,850 and emailed her a list of questions to fill out about her experiences.

“It was a cashier’s check and it looked totally legit,” she said.

Kathy was told to deposit the check, take the cash and go to three different money transfer services and wire $900 from each. That left her with $100 for doing the job. She did as instructed.

About a week later, Kathy got a letter from her bank. It said the $2,850 check was counterfeit and couldn’t be cashed, so the money she had withdrawn would be debited from her checking account.

“The bank should have been able to determine immediately whether the check was legit or not and they didn’t. And that really disturbed me,” she said.

Kathy realizes she’ll never get that money back, but she hopes that by sharing her experience she can prevent others from becoming victims.

Why Fake Check Scams Work So Well

Few of us understand how the banking system works and the scammers use that confusion to trick us.

When we deposit a check, the financial institution is required by federal law to make the money available to us long before it can be certain the check is legitimate. We see the money show up in our account and assume the check is good and has cleared.

Fake check scam victims frequently report that their financial institutions decline to help them.

But that’s not what really happens. It may take a couple of days or a week or more for the check to work its way through the banking system and actually clear. During that time period, the bank gives us a short-term, no-interest loan using that check as collateral. If the check bounces, we have to pay back that loan in full.

“Unfortunately, you don’t realize you’ve been defrauded until you find that your bank account has a big negative balance,” said’s John Breyault. “And because of how our banking laws are written, it’s the consumer who’s on the hook for that — not the scammer and not the bank. It’s not like a fraudulent transaction on a credit card that you can dispute. It doesn’t work that way with personal checks.”

Victims Say the Bank Wouldn’t Help Them

People who’ve lost money to fake check fraudsters frequently complain that their bank teller did not warn them about the scam and their financial institution would not help them when the check turned out to be bogus.

Erika, a single mom in Oklahoma City who preferred not to be identified by her last name, was excited to be offered a work-at-home job this past spring. Her new employer sent her a check for $1,000 to buy office supplies and cover her first paycheck.

Erika was told to cash the check at her bank, take $979 to another bank in town and deposit it into the account of a corporate vendor who would ship the supplies she needed to get started.

A few days after she did that, Erika got a call from her bank. The check was a fake and there would be a $979 debit to her account. Not only that, but the debit caused her account to be overdrawn, which meant in addition to the $979 stolen by the scammers, she now owed the bank overdraft fees.

“I’m looking for a job, so I can provide for my three year old son, and instead I get fleeced,” she said.

Erika told NBC News she asked the bank if they could help her with this, but she was told there was nothing they could do. That’s not uncommon. Fake check scam victims frequently report that their financial institutions decline to help them.

The nation’s bankers insist they take fake check fraud very seriously and are doing a better job of spotting it and stopping it. For example, the American Bankers Association said tellers are trained to say something and ask questions when they see a transaction that appears to be suspicious.

“These losses are not something that bankers ever want to see,” said Doug Johnson, ABA’s senior vice president of payments and cyber security. “We continually educate our customers about the frauds being perpetrated against them, but we can’t stop every crime.”

That’s why it’s up to you to protect yourself and understand how scammers use fake checks to steal your money.

The BBB’s Emma Fletcher told NBC News she cannot think of any legitimate business transaction where someone would send you a check, ask you to deposit it and wire back the money.

“Any time you’re asked to do something like that, an alarm should go off that this is a scam,” she said.

The Federal Trade Commission has information on Fake Check Scams and the Better Business Bureau provides 10 Steps to Avoid Scams.



The post Fraud Alert: Fake Checks Used for a Variety of Costly Scams appeared first on AAOA.

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What one real estate team leader learned from her epic failure

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 1:54pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- On Aug. 15, 2016, Seattle real estate team leader Vija Williams went to the office like any other day. Except on this day, she lost $10 million in business ...
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How to overcome your human fallacies to reach your full potential

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 1:52pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur and technologist Vivienne Ming didn't graduate from college on her first try ...
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What’s on Redfin CEO’s mind after IPO?

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 1:46pm
Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman has tried not to let the company's recent IPO go to his head. He wants to stay focused on improving a business model that is still far from perfect, he said on stage at Connect ...
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How to create Snapchat content that’s engaging

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 12:04pm
“Real time visual communication is a fundamental shift in how we will be connecting with people and sharing our brand in the future,” said Chelsea Peitz, director of social strategy with Fidelity National Title at a Agent Connect, part of Tuesday's Inman Connect programming ...
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Scared of video? Overcome post-production woes with these 5 tools

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 12:01pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Do you ever feel like you’re just not ready to hit the record button -- ever? A lot of real estate agents are afraid of shooting video because they simply don’t want to put out a poor final product ...
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What to do when agents don’t fit your brokerage model

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 11:37am
SAN FRANCISCO -- A one-size brokerage model does not fit every agent's needs. That was a key message from Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens, at ICSF Broker Connect this week. Three different style brokerages -- 100-percent-commission brokerage, Signature; progressive traditional agency, Coldwell Banker King; and tech startup, Door -- faced off to talk about how they work together to address this issue not despite their differences, but because of them ...
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Zillow Instant Offers expands to Phoenix

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 10:20am
Zillow Group will expand Zillow Instant Offers, a pilot program that helps homeowners to sell directly to investors, to Phoenix in mid-September ...
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Zillow Group and CFPB head into settlement talks

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 10:10am
A federal investigation of Zillow Group's co-marketing program for potential anti-kickback violations appears to be over, but that doesn't mean the real estate giant is out of hot water.  ...
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Growing your business: Going from solo agent to team

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 7:56am
SAN FRANCISCO -- Growth. Everyone wants it, but not everyone knows how to achieve it. Luckily for Tuesday's crowd at Agent Connect, Vija Williams, Keir Weimer and Danielle Lazier took the Inman stage to share some valuable insights and answer questions about their journey going from solo agent to team ...
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Crazy Sh*t In Real Estate: Always check the freezer

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 2:00am
It’s the final walkthrough, and everyone is excited about the home. Suddenly, you hear shrieks coming from your client in the kitchen. Paula Monthofer and her clients did not anticipate what they found in the freezer that day, but it merited a very deep clean of the home upon purchase ...
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5 smart home device-compatible upgrades that raise home values

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 1:30am
When looking to increase the value of one’s home before selling, common renovations include updating flooring, changing countertops, slapping a fresh coat of paint on the front door and maybe updating some of the home’s appliances ...
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Is your lead generation boring? 4 mistakes and how to avoid them

Inmannews - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 1:00am
You might know real estate in your target area like the back of your hand, but we all know that means very little if you have zero homeseller or buyer prospects ...
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Is it possible to sustain long-term growth as a top real estate agent?

Inmannews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 3:55pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the 1980s, American auto-makers were so obsessed with sales that Chrysler built a series of vehicles on a new platform, the K-car platform. "It was one of the worst examples of design engineering and manufacturing ever, and Chrysler knew it, yet they just focused on selling it regardless," said James Becker on stage at Inman Connect San Francisco ...
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Katie Lance: My 5 best tech tips in 5 minutes

Inmannews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 3:39pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Social media is an integral part of many, if not all, real estate professionals' marketing plans. But how exactly do you break through the noise of everyone making Facebook Live videos, Snapchat stories, and Instagram ads ...
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7 tips for converting more online real estate leads

Inmannews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 3:26pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giving up on a lead after leaving a voicemail is akin to tossing $5 on the ground, Realtor Rachel Adams said on stage at Inman Connect ...
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