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Realtors Say Online Housing Scams on the Rise

March 2, 2015

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s the message the island’s top realtors are relaying to house hunters, many of whom are being scammed out of hundreds of dollars.

It comes in waves over the years and it appears scams involving real estate and apartment listings online not only are back but on the rise. Ryan De Guzman said, “Where a person, who was looking for a rental online, went through craigslist and ended up wire transferring some money; unfortunately ended where they got scammed and came to me for assistance and I was able to help this person, so it’s actually happened to me.” As Guam Association of Realtors president, De Guzman says he’s received several complaints regarding online scams and for this particular case, the person lost out on over $700.

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“These websites that promote and solicit rental units and real estate property online don’t have certain controls in place, he explained.

And with people looking to save money, they can easily be taken advantage of, especially online. GAR’s president-elect Deanna Palmer says most of the scam listings sound real, appealing and in some cases even provide a back story and local phone number. Unfortunately she says because many of the scam artists are from off-island, the chances of going after these perpetrators is zero.

“So the association has alerted the Attorney General’s Office, we’ve done what we can and we’ve doubled check with service provider for MLS and the pictures there are protected, they can’t be taken 0525 but a lot of realtors have their own websites, so we have to now let the membership know please check your websites and make sure those pictures are protected,” she said.

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MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service, which means it’s listed with a realtor and according to palmer is much safer. And while this problem is mostly attributed to technology, it’s not to say it hasn’t helped business as virtual tours are now available via Skype and you can find any listing on Google Maps. De Guzman said, “As far as educating the public, it seems like common sense and I wouldn’t recommend anybody putting money into anything they’ve never seen before Just ask a lot of questions, if there’s any red flags or anything that seems out of the ordinary or unusual, i would definitely question.”

Palmer added, “Or too good to be true – especially the too good to be true.”

De Guzman also recommends contacting any of the 402 realtors who are members of gar to provide better protection. “If the public was unsure or uneasy about something or there’s a problem, I would say report it our association because we are an organization that is concerned and we want to know what’s going on and we want to know how we can help the situation.”

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