Due to the increase in foreclosures, there are many homes sitting vacant. Banks are overwhelmed by the increase in inventory of REO’s. For many of the banks, their REO’s are far from their offices and the person from the bank who maintains the home is unable to visit the location on a regular basis. Our creative fraudsters are going to vacant homes, removing the “For Sale” signs, and replacing them with “For Rent” signs. They list on their sign an 800 number for would be tenants to contact them. They offer free utilities and require a deposit, first and last months rent.
They snag a tenant, take the money and run! The tenant has no idea that the property is not owned by the person they believe they are renting from until they get a knock on their door from the bank. The fraudster covers his tracks by using a prepaid 800 number which is untraceable. Our tenant has benefited from the free utilities, but has lost their money and eventually their rented home. Unfortunately, anyone with a vacant home is at risk.
Verify the owner of the property by calling a title company.
- Before signing a lease with an independent homeowner, take the lease to a lawyer or your local legal aid office before handing over a big security deposit.
- If you are looking to rent a home, use a licensed real estate agency or property manager to broker the deal.
- Rather than rent through an individual homeowner, try renting through a development’s homeowner’s association.
- Always pay with a check, and keep records of each rent payment made.
- Never pay a security deposit and initial month’s rent in cash. Always ask where the landlord will hold the deposit; by law, it must be in a bank account, and the landlord must tell the tenant where it is being held.
- Ask for a local office address and number as to where payments can be made.
- Always run the property address and homeowner’s name through the local property appraiser and clerk of courts Web sites to see if there are liens on the property.
- If you are a victim this is what you need to do
If you believe you are a victim of real estate fraud, please contact your local Sheriff Station, Police Station or District Attorney’s Office. Prepare a written explanation of what occurred. Your explanation should include:
1. A brief overview of the events that took place.
2. The names, addresses and telephone numbers of the people and companies involved.
3. Copies of all documents you signed or that were given to you, including grant deeds, quitclaim deeds, trust deeds, reconveyance, assignment of deeds, notes, contracts, agreements, escrow instructions and statements.
4. Copies of cancelled checks, or money orders (both front and back) that you gave in payment or that were given to you as payments.
5. Print your name, address and a daytime phone number.
Send your complaints to:
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Fraud Detail/Real Estate Fraud Unit
11515 S. Colima Road , M-104
Whittier , CA 90604
Los Angeles County District Attorney Bureau of Investigation
Real Estate Fraud Unit
201 N. Figueroa Street , 16th Floor
Los Angeles , CA 90012
Agencies & Organizations That Provide Help:
California Department of Real Estate
320 W. 4th Street, Suite 350
Los Angeles , CA 90013
The Department of Real Estate licenses, regulates and investigates complaints about real estate brokers, salespersons and some mortgage brokers and escrows.
California Association of Realtors
525 S. Virgil Avenue
Los Angeles , CA 90020
The Association has listings for local Realtor associations throughout the Los Angeles County area.
Los Angeles County Bar Association
P.O. Box 55020
Los Angeles , CA 90055
The Bar Association can help consumers find lawyers that deal specifically with real estate cases.
Department of Corporations
Financial Services Division
320 W. 4th Street, Suite 750
Los Angeles , CA 90013
DOC regulates some escrow companies and the sale of securities, such as fractionalized deeds of trust and verifies the licenses of mortgage bankers.