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Warning to property owners - Scammers posing as property buyers, interested in "buying" your property!

A number of advertisers have contacted us for advice about foreigners generally acting on behalf of third party buyers interested in their property, having a number of unusual requests, such as these "buyers" expecting the vendors to travel overseas to conclude the deal face to face, having requests for confidentiality, making offers of cash payments, and many other highly suspicious markers indicating that something is not quite right. For example, the offer to buy comes without any viewing of the property; no haggling, the full selling price is accepted as OK. These people often also ask for a telephone number, and if given one, can be very persistent. They often forget certain details - being in contact with several other potential victims at the same time, they may, after several contacts, suddenly start referring to your villa as a flat, and vice versa, indicators that ultimately they are not really interested in your property AT ALL.

While thankfully we do not have information of what happens if someone falls for this scam, it seems highly likely that this will end up as a complex variation of the "overpayment" scam, whereby a payment (with a fake bank instrument such as a cheque, etc) is made to the vendor for something like a deposit, etc, but after the cheque is received by vendor the "client's representative" advises that the sale has fallen through and could they have at least some of the payment already made, back. The very sophisticated fake bank cheque is still in the banking system and not yet returned unpaid (it passes ordinary visual inspection, and will only be discovered fake up to one month after having been deposited), and the property owner is asked to return some of the money he/she thinks he has to the buyer, but this time obviously the owner will send real money, at buyer's request generally by Western Union, or some similar over-the-counter cash transfer service.

Leaving the property owner with a worthless cheque and several hundreds less in his/her account.

Much of the scam is based on people's greed, i.e. the vendor is offered full asking price or close to, little questions asked, property not even viewed except via photographs, actions which hardly any genuine buyer would normally do - so caution is thrown to the wind by the excited property owner.

So whenever you get any unusual enquiries, be careful! Any genuine buyer would first view the property; would rarely offer the full asking price; would not make any unusual requests at all; and would visibly proceed with all due caution. After years of being involved in property, we may confidently state that 99.9% of genuine buyers match this behavioural profile perfectly, you are most unlikely to meet the exception!

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