Don’t Fall for This Gift Card Scam

This Monday, people on my contact list received an email that looked as if it was from me, asking for “help.” If they responded to the email, it went to a scammer pretending to be me who said I was in a meeting but could they help me purchase some Google gift cards for me and I’d reimburse them.

This kind of scam doesn’t hurt the person who’s being impersonated, but it hurts his/her friends and contacts who fall for it. Tell your family and friends about this scam and don’t let them fall for it.

Division of Real Estate Warns Homeowners About ‘Equity Skimming’ Schemes

By now, we should all be wary of people offering to “help” us financially, usually via the internet or email, but also by phone.  As the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Last week the Colorado Division of Real Estate (DRE) issued a warning about scammers cheating homeowners out of their home’s equity on the pretext of helping them pay HOA liens on their home.

Yes, an HOA can place a lien on your home for failing to pay your HOA assessments or fines, and an HOA lien takes priority even over the lien of your mortgage lender.

It is possible for an HOA to foreclose on your $600,000 home because of unpaid dues or fines, no matter how small. But if you can’t pay, what do you do? Those liens and subsequent foreclosure actions become public records, making you an easy-to-find target for a scammer wanting to “help” you.

Here’s a link to the full DRE warning. It describes several scamming scenarios. According to the DRE’s warning, those scenarios “can leave a homeowner losing their property, becoming a renter in their own home, having their credit rating severely damaged, and having the possibility that the lender may pursue a deficiency judgment against them if the property is foreclosed upon, as well as the HOA pursuing a personal judgment against them for unpaid HOA dues.”

Homeowners are urged to look for the following red flags:

>  Anyone wanting you to act fast with a quick-fix to your financial difficulties.

>  Promises to resolve your financial problems and to leave your cares behind.

>  Someone wanting you to transfer your ownership in the property to them.

>  Anyone asking you to sign a power of attorney for them to act on your behalf.

> Proposing that you’ll be a tenant in the home that you now own.

>  Someone telling you that there is no need to consult with an attorney, accountant, real estate broker, lender or anyone else.

Feel free to contact me if you find yourself in this or a similar situation. My intention is not to convince you to list your home with me. I just want to give you my own layman’s feedback on what others may have told you, and I can, if appropriate, refer you to a trusted real estate attorney. First, however, read that DRE warning, which has lots of useful information and links for reporting suspected scams or getting other advice.

And, as I like to say, remember that “Google is your friend.”  When contacted by someone you suspect could be a scammer, do a web search for the person and/or company and/or email address and/or phone number. Also, we have a special app called “Forewarn,” only available to licensed Realtors like myself, where I can instantly search by name or phone number. My broker associates and I use that app to check out people who want to do business with us, instantly learning their age, properties owned, bankruptcies or liens, criminal charges, and even cars they own.  I’m happy to do such a search for you, too.

Lastly, I’d like to put in a good word for my cell carrier, T-Mobile.  My previous cell carrier was AT&T, which didn’t provide Caller ID on people not in my contact list, but I do get Caller ID with T-Mobile. If a number does not have a name associated with it, I let it go into voice-mail, and those callers rarely leave a message, suggesting, I believe, that it was a “spoofed” number by a solicitor or scammer. Thank you, T-Mobile! I’m wasting a lot less time than I used to on answering unwanted calls.

Investors Target Seniors & Others, Buying Homes Below Their True Value

As a long-time Realtor serving the Denver metro area, I am committed to protecting homeowners and especially seniors from being cheated out of their home’s true worth by investors who offer to buy homes for cash without putting them on the market.

Unsolicited offers in the mail or by phone should be a red flag for you. These people know what they are doing and depend on you not knowing the true value of your home.

I want to uncover people who seek to cheat you. If you get such a solicitation, call me at 303-525-1851, and I’ll tell you what you’re home is really worth. Keep in mind that investors will only make an offer that leaves room to make a big profit — at your expense.

It’s easy for any investor to go online and identify homeowners who purchased their home 30 or 40 years ago for a fraction of what it’s worth now.  It’s a sure bet that such an owner is a senior and would be impressed by a cash offer of, say, $300,000. But how will you feel a month later when that investor sells your home for $100,000 more without making any significant improvements to it? You’d feel “ripped off” — and rightly so.  Don’t let this happen to you!

You may not even want to sell your home, but the offer of a quick $300,000 could lure you into a sale which you would only regret later.

Seniors in particular can’t afford to be cheated out of their home’s equity. The money they receive needs to last through their remaining lifetime. As a senior myself, I make those same calculations about how much money I need to support Rita and me for as long as we both live.

Don’t feel that you’re imposing on me to ask for my advice, which I give free over the phone. Using my computer, I can tell you within a few minutes whether an unsolicited offer you receive is close to what your home is really worth. My computer is always on, and unless I’m away from it when you call, I can enter your address in two different programs and tell you during the same phone call what those programs say your home is worth.  If you actually do want to sell, I can refine those valuations by looking at your home’s condition and location and studying the sales of comparable homes in your immediate neighborhood. With my years of experience, this is easy for me, so please feel free to ask!

I promise that I won’t ask you to list your home with me. You’d have to raise that subject. I just want to save you from being cheated or scammed. 

In my 18 years of practicing real estate in the metro area, I have come across many scams perpetrated against homeowners of all ages, but especially against seniors.

For example, I remember how one caregiver in Lakewood convinced her elderly client with dementia to add her name to his checking account and to the title of his car and even made her a co-owner of his home. When he passed, this man’s relatives couldn’t do anything about it because all those acts were ruled legal despite the man’s dementia. That “caregiver” drained his checking account, sold the house after his death, and his relatives didn’t get a dime.

If you’re a senior, beware of people who befriend and pretend to love you. They may have ulterior motives. If you are not a senior but have a relative who is elderly and lives alone, keep in touch with him or her and ask questions. Don’t let your relative be scammed — or feel ignored by you. That only plays into the scammer’s hand.

Now, if it is time for you to give up owning a home and move into a senior community where you have no maintenance worries and enjoy the company of others your age, I have a colleague who specializes in helping seniors find the right facility. She will listen to your needs and wants and even take you to visit facilities which best meet your needs. She knows their services and their histories, both good and bad. She’ll keep you from choosing a facility that you’ll regret later. She’s motivated to find you a facility that you like, because the facility only pays her a commission if you stay there for at least 90 days.  She’s a sweet, caring person, and you pay nothing for her services.

Or perhaps you’d just like to downsize into a smaller home or one with the master bedroom, kitchen, living room  and laundry all on the main floor. That’s where I can be of service personally.  I can send you listings like that and show you ones that sound appealing.

Call my cell phone anytime at 303-525-1851.  I answer it day or evening.

Seniors: Learn What You Need to Know About Real Estate

Last month’s column was about the risk seniors face of being scammed or conned out of their homes.

Let’s face it — seniors need to be careful and knowledgeable about real estate as they age. There are issues of downsizing as well as inheritance. And you need to know how real estate works, how to choose the best Realtor and know that he or she is working in your best interest.

At Golden Real Estate we have two agents who have earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation as a result of special training on a multitude of issues facing seniors. One of them is David Dlugasch, shown at right during his PowerPoint presentation to a group of seniors. The other is Kristi Brunel.  If you belong to a senior group that welcomes outside speakers, please consider calling David at 303-908-4835 or Kristi at 303-525-2520 and arranging for a live presentation.  You may learn something that could help you in the future.