At the peak of the housing bubble, real estate scammers were crawling out of their proverbial fleapits in troves, running get-rich-quick house flipping scams or posing as mortgage brokers issuing predatory loans to susceptible borrowers. When the bubble burst, it seemed real estate scammers were at an end, but soon the same charlatans were back at it, capitalizing on the misfortune of millions of desperate homeowners hoping to save their homes from foreclosure. Today, real estate scammers have only become more astute and sophisticated, using elaborate cons to fool impressionable renters and vulnerable homeowners out of their hard earned cash.

Since the market crash, federal and state governments have taken numerous measures to prevent real estate scams. Nevertheless, crooks continue to thrive at the expense of unsuspecting consumers. Taking the following precautions can help you safely navigate the often complicated world of real estate whether you are renting, looking to invest or you are a homeowner facing a tough economic downturn.
Renters should be suspicious of any listings that are not immediately available for viewing or require money up front, have excessive application fees or ask that payments be made to a third party.

Homeowners struggling with their mortgage should proceed with extreme caution when entering any loan counseling or modification program. If the counseling agency is collecting exorbitant fees up front in exchange for modifying your mortgage loan, is not listed by the US Department of HUD (Housing and Urban Development), or persistently promises you will retain your home, this is most likely a scam. Investors should research prospects thoroughly, cross-check listings and verify brokers before making any monetary commitments.

Finally, follow your instincts; deals that seem too good to be true probably are. Never sign anything you haven’t read thoroughly and ask questions if and when you do not fully understand any particular thing. As a consumer, being proactive is your single best defense against con artists; following these simple safety precautions can help you avoid being taken for a ride and ultimately save you thousands of dollars.

This post was written by Stephen Hachey. Follow Stephen on Google, Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin.