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Are you aware of the most common real estate scams in Australia?

ByAndrew Bell

Our world is more connected than ever before. The Internet of Things (IoT) market is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 28.5 per cent, according to Forbes, largely due to our increasing reliance on the web to perform everyday tasks. 

And that includes buying and selling property. Today, many Australians are using their own devices to trade real estate rather than consulting with qualified professionals. While avoiding traditional channels isn't always a negative thing, it can put you at risk. Property scams are on the rise in Australia and they're becoming more advanced. What's more, few of us are aware of the most common schemes, including nearly half (46 per cent) of property lawyers, reports GlobalX.

So what can you do to keep your money and data safe online? Here's a brief overview. 

Steer clear of these real estate scams

Today, scammers are very skilled at sending emails that look like they're from real estate agencies – and they've even nailed the timing. Home buyers, for example, might receive emails throughout the purchasing process instructing them to wire money to overseas bank accounts. This is one kind of phishing scam, the broad name for schemes where hackers pose as trusted people to trick victims into transferring money or giving away private information. Because messages look and feel legitimate, a huge number of consumers fall for phishing scams each year. 

Other common scams include:

Superannuation scams

These scams offer to free up your super fund in order to buy real estate. Because early superannuation access is illegal, scammers often coerce you into agreeing to a fraudulent story to release the fund. Once the money is available, the culprit will take exorbitant fees or even leave you with nothing at all. 

Overseas buying opportunities

If you get an email from a foreign seller with an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is. With overseas buying scams, desperate homeowners – typically in the United States – will reach out about so-called opportunities to snatch up winning real estate for next to nothing. While these homes do exist, they're typically very unprofitable and usually prove impossible to sell down the line. These have become increasingly common in the wake of the financial crisis which plummeted the American property market. 

For legitimate international investment opportunities, work with a trusted agency like Ray White USA.

Bait and switch

A prospective buyer will make an offer on a home that's much higher than market value, agreeing to pay after a designated amount of time. Once that period is over, however, the buyer asks to extend. Meanwhile, the seller is still paying taxes, maintenance and utilities while the home sits on the market. When the second wait is over, the buyer comes up with an explanation around why the initial offer won't work. Frustrated and eager to get rid of the asset, the seller agrees to a much lower price.

Real estate seminars

Scammers will invite you to attend a workshop or seminar with "property experts". After charging you costly entrance and admission fees (which are often hidden), you'll be given risky advice and pressured into investing in overvalued schemes.

How to avoid online property scams

Avoiding property fraud starts with being aware of it. This list only scratches the surface of what's out there. If you're in the market to buy, sell or even rent, read up on common frauds and be suspicious of any correspondence you read online. As a general rule, avoid communicating with organisations you aren't personally aware of. Work with trusted professionals and ask them for guidance before committing to any investment schemes.

To learn about buying and selling Gold Coast property the secure way, reach out to the team at Ray White Surfers Paradise today.

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