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Avoiding Online Scams When Selling Your Home Privately

Avoiding Online Scams When Selling Your Home Privately

When it comes to online fraud, it is always advisable to be cautious. As a property seller, you are more likely to be targeted by scammers due to the high value of your asset. Many people believe that they will not fall victim to fraud, but these scammers can be very convincing. Do not make the mistake of thinking you are too smart to be fooled or that you are not a desirable target. It is surprising how much information they can gather and the effort they put into appearing legitimate. Therefore, it is best to approach each potential buyer or offer with skepticism. Following these tips, consulting with your lawyer regularly, and taking this cautious approach will save you from future problems.

It is crucial to emphasize the importance of your lawyer in protecting you during the transaction and shielding you from suspicious individuals. One effective measure in any offer scenario is to instruct all potential buyers to have their lawyer (or real estate agent) contact your lawyer directly to proceed with the sale. This step usually deters anyone with malicious intent, and they are likely to disappear after that.

Even the largest and most reputable platforms struggle to keep malicious outsiders away from their users. Here are some best practices for identifying warning signs and some helpful do’s and don’ts to interact with unknown prospects online safely.

Things to be cautious of in buyers include rushing you into a decision, requesting money from you at any point, using a PO box as an address, requiring an international money transfer, or being contacted by someone claiming to be from another country. It is also suspicious if a potential buyer makes an offer without wanting to see the property in person or provide personal, banking, and contact information in the initial emails. Another red flag is if the buyer requests a refund because they supposedly overpaid with a forged check.

Do not accept checks without consulting your lawyer, transfer large sums of money through email, or send sensitive information through email to unknown individuals. If you receive a suspicious email, do not open it and avoid clicking on any links.

On the other hand, trust your instincts. If something feels suspicious, it probably is. Vet serious buyers through your lawyer and regularly change all online passwords, including those for email and banking, using strong combinations of letters, numbers, symbols, and capital letters.

Be especially cautious when dealing with international buyers, as they can be more difficult to track and authenticate their intentions.

Ensure that your privacy settings on social media platforms are strict to prevent scammers from using your personal information to appear legitimate.

Things to watch out for in buyers

  • A potential buyer rushing you into a decision and seeming overly time-sensitive.
  • The potential buyer asking you to send them money, AT ANY POINT.
  • They use a PO box as an address.
  • They require an international money transfer.
  • Being contacted by a foreigner. Many of the most popular real estate scams have been from people claiming to be from outside the country.
  • The potential buyer makes an offer without wanting to see the home in person or at least have their family member or agent see it.
  • The potential buyer offers up too much information immediately. Such as personal, banking information, and contact information in the first few emails.
  • The buyer asked you to refund them because they “overpaid” with their deposit cheque (it’s often a forged cheque).


  • Never accept cheques without consulting your lawyer.
  • Never transfer large amounts of money through email.
  • Never send sensitive information through email, especially to someone you don’t know.
  • If you receive a suspicious email, don’t open it. If you do, don’t click on any links.


  • Follow your gut! If something seems suspicious, it probably is!
  • Vet all serious buyers through your lawyer or Real Estate Agent.
  • Change all online passwords on a regular basis (including email, banking etc.).
  • Choose a strong password. Meaning it is not easy to guess, and it contains a combination of letters, numbers, symbols and capital letters.
  • Be extra cautious of international buyers.
    • Those across international borders can be harder to track and authenticate that their intentions are legitimate.
  • Make sure that your privacy settings on social media sites are strict, as scammers could try to use some of your personal information against you in order to seem legitimate.

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