Realtors being targeted in scam

HOUSTON It is not uncommon for a home to be sold to someone out of town, but the details of the sale got the Realtor's attention, and it's a good thing, because she uncovered another example of fake checks that could have done some real damage.

Realtor Lindsey Vaughn has more than a dozen homes listed for sale, and recently, she was contacted by e-mail from an out-of-town buyer looking for a home valued around half a million dollars.

"He said, 'I am in urgent need of a four bedroom home. I don't have any children, and I need it to be between $400,000 and $600,000, and my plane lands in 16 weeks, and I just need a home,'" said Vaughn.

She says the buyer quickly selected a home and agreed to pay the listing price in cash.

It is not uncommon to get inquiries about a house sight unseen, so Vaughn sent a contract to the buyer, and that's when things started seem strange.

"I sent him all the information and all the contracts, and within about 20 minutes I had it back, so I knew he did not read it," said Vaughn.

She says the buyer also wanted to send her a check for the earnest money.

That's when Vaughn started researching her buyer and discovered Realtors around the world who had dealt with the same man.

"I called a Realtor in Honolulu, and he told me all of this was bad news that they were sending fake cashier's checks," said Vaughn.

The fake checks could have done real damage to Vaughn's bank account.

"Once you put it into your account, then they would say, 'Oh that bounced,' send it back to me, and now all of your bank account information is on the back of their check," said Vaughn.

The Houston Association of Realtors says fraud directed toward listing agents is on the rise and home sellers can get caught too.

"It definitely affects the seller. They think wow this is a miracle, I am getting paid in cash or I am closing tomorrow," said Margie Dorrance of HAR.

The good news here is that the Realtor started looking into the buyer before any checks were sent.

However, if you are selling your home, make sure out-of-town offers are the real deal.

The Friendswood police did make a report, but the key is getting people up to speed on how these things work.

The Houston Association of Realtors is warning agents about this to try to keep anyone from losing money because of this.

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