FBI report shows real estate and non-delivery fraud are most common

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COLUMBIA - Millions of dollars are stolen from people each year by scammers. Some scammers are posting ads that appear to be legitimate. That’s what makes victims vulnerable.

Real estate and rental fraud is one of the top 10 crimes reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Landlords and property management groups are victims of counterfeit and fraudulent checks. Future tenants are victims of not having a home to live in because of scammers posing as the landlords.

General Council member of the Columbia Board of Realtors, Steve Graham said people need to be careful with the advertisements of the properties, when searching the internet.

“If listing online have rates that are too good to be true, then they probably are,” Graham said.

When the scammers pose as the landlords, the future tenants could receive a request asking them to wire money.

“Even if you get an email that seems legitimate to have you wire money to a property management group, always call and verify,” Graham said.

People are also writing bad checks and this leaves the landlords and groups responsible for them. The Boone County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has a way of combating this from happening.

If realty groups and property landlords receive a bad check from a potential tenant, they should report it to the “Bad Check Unit” in the office. The unit is a free service that will attempt to collect the check or begin criminal prosecution.

Non-delivery fraud is another crime on the list. This fraud happens when people make purchases online and never receive the items.

The Regional Director of BBB Columbia, Michelle Gleba said people need to be aware of everything on websites when making purchases.

“One red flag is if you visit a website and there’s not contact information,” Gleba said.

Gleba said people should look for lock signs in the top of the web address bars as well. The lock signs are a way to know if a website is secure or not. She recommends having the latest virus software on your computers and read the fine print before you make your purchases.

Gleba and Graham both agree on verifying all information before you follow through with renting and buying anything online.