Internet Referral Programs

I received a call the other day from one of those Internet referral agencies. It was not at all what I expected. As usual, I listened to the sales pitch to see if I can pick up a detail or two I am not already doing myself for free. She kept mentioning gathering information from the Internet. As I asked questions I began to see, she was selling me a service that would make me an accessory to Internet theft. Once I mentioned that to her, she insisted, either I become a subscriber, or loose my business. Has Internet theft crossed the bridge to extortion?

I looked into those marketing companies. They use terms like using the latest technology to gather information, establish patterns, create reports, identify leads, and some of them call it Internet mining. What is amounts to is using spyware to gather and sell information. A light went off. Suddenly I could see how I work with buyers for weeks and just as they are ready to buy, another agent calls out of the blue and using high pressure sales techniques, talks buyers into dumping me and instantly signing a contract to buy a house they later regret.

HAS THAT HAPPENED TO YOU?

I also see this happening on listings. I get a request from my website to show a listing, and the new buyer either doesn’t show up, or like the last one, I show up and another agent is showing my new lead the property. I called the last buyer and asked what happened. She told me an agent called her and scheduled an earlier appointment.

As I thought about Internet theft, I could see how serious this really is. Those people hold lives and businesses in their hands. They see everything on hard drives and nothing is stopping them from stealing customer lists from your hard drive and selling it off to the highest bidder. Internet theft has accounted for the loss of more jobs, closed more businesses, and caused more foreclosures than any other factor. Internet theft is ruining the economy, this country, and is against the Real Estate Ethics Code.

BUT WHO IS DOING ANYTHING TO STOP IT?

Here is Wisconsin, it is against the law to pay for real estate referrals. But that’s not the way lawmakers look at Internet theft. But what is the thief doing? Selling referrals by selling off your customer base.

ARE YOU NEXT?

The next move looks like it involves threats. Pay for their services or they will drive you out of businesses. Is there really honor among that type of thief? The US government says they will never negotiate with terrorist. We have a new brand of Internet terrorism in the market. It is Internet thieves extorting fees from honest Real Estate Agents, Brokers, and anyone operating an honest business. You know those people will sell of your customer list to the highest bidder in a heartbeat if you pay or not. Where do we go from here? Every person running for every office across this country relies on Internet thieves to get elected. Who can we turn to?

 

 

What Lures People Into an Online Scam

So you want to get rich in Real Estate. You don’t have much money, but you heard all the stories of how people broke the system and made it rich in Real Estate. The Internet is full of Real Estate Scams with one intent…. to quickly part a fool and the little money they have. Not only are these scam artists using the Internet, they have enough guts to hold seminars in major cities to collect more money. I can tell you —- beyond any doubt —- the only thing these people know about Real Estate is their scripted plan to suck money out of victims with high hopes and dreams of making it out of this depressed economy we seem stuck in. Let me show you how it works.

How Online Real Estate Scams Work

Charges begin at the very beginning. After a free introduction online or at a local meeting which consists of NO USEFUL information —- ONLY a load of hype, people fall for these plans like an unsuspecting fish goes for a shinny lure. Things look so good, fees seem like a small investment. Let me tell you what you are investing in. There is a scripted system you are investing in. This scripted system is not designed to make any money for you! It is a system to put money in the pockets of this carefully formed network of thieves. The first charge is a set of lessons, either online or a condensed live seminar. They will tell you about some secret list of foreclosed properties. Here is the hook. They tell you only certain Real Estate Agents get this list! Any suggestion of a separate list is against local MLS rules and agreements all Real Estate Agents share. Every licensed Real Estate Agent must sign an agreement to share all their listings with all other Agents on the local MLS. There is no secret foreclosure list. These people are trying to impress you will false information. Some of them are trying to get you to work with agents they hand pick, but this is very rare. It doesn’t take much effort to gather a list of new, inexperienced agents eager to make their first sale. All these people need to do is check public records to find newly licensed Agents, who may not know what they are falling into.

The next step is to provide you with a pre-approval letter or proof of funds letter. Boy — Do these people look like an answer to prayer. After paying a fee, you get a letter and these people promise to give you money to invest in their system without checking your credit. This is too good to be true! That’s because it is not true! There is a world of difference between a letter and cold hard cash. Of course there is a fee for the letter, and a fee for a credit check, another fee for an appraisal, another fee because they feel like sucking more from you. That’s the system you are buying into. All the money flows one way!

If you happen to have funds, you can elevate to their next level of scams. You get the gold script!!! This is what they will tell you. They will tell you how to bid. Of course you have to get an offer accepted. They will tell you about their plan that never fails —- and it sounds good. But of course will never work in the end. Here is their plan. Over bid on the property. The way they explain it makes sense. After all they are trusting you with their money…. all they are asking for is your trust in return. WHAT A SCAM! You have not seen a dime from them and they are pulling the TRUST ME CARD. By this point you paid them thousands and received nothing but promises. And now you are paying for some of the worst advice I have ever heard. Of course the best properties receive multiple bids and you have to find a way of getting your offer accepted. They tell you once you over bid and get the contact, which they tell you is a legal binding contract…. which is about the only truthful matter they will tell you, the Seller and you are bound by the contract. What they fail to tell you is, asset managers seldom negotiate price after you sign a contract. There is nothing in the contract saying the Seller has to deal on the price. When you fall for this scam, you missed one very important point! The Seller has a group of cash buyers waiting in the wings who can close in a hurry. The Seller can tell you to take a walk. In the mean time, you lost more money on the scam. They tell you they have a network of inspectors to look over the property, give you a report and instruct you on how to use their report to negotiate. Two problems here. Number one, you pay them for the inspection. More money for them. Number 2 – they DO NOT use state licensed inspectors. The contracts I use in Wisconsin states: A State Licensed Inspector must be used. You just wasted your money. Any Listing Agent with a year of experience will take one look at that report and know it is a fake. When I see this, I call the so called inspector and ask for his state license number. Guess, what… the house of cards immediately folds. Next on the scripted plan to part you from your money is the fake contractors. More money out of your pocket, more in theirs. Now here is the real heart break for innocent buyers like yourself. According to the contract you have 10 days or so for an inspection. If you don’t have a good agent, that time disappears. You lost that contingency to back out of the contract and get your earnest money deposit back. The worst part of this scam is the time it takes. Before you know it, time runs out, you fail to close and find yourself in a position to loose your earnest money deposit. Notice how you are the one putting up all the money…. and they are the ones making the money? When time runs out, you are in what is known as breach of contract. You failed to fulfill your part of the agreement. Some Sellers are insisting they keep the earnest money. At this time it appears to be the only way to combat this scam. Most of the time Buyers will get their earnest money returned but when Sellers see this scam, they may not be so lenient. Collecting earnest money is a long process most Sellers will not want to go through, but one Seller instructed me to go through the long drawn out process. In the end the Buyer lost the earnest money. The whole process is nothing but a waste of time for everyone involved and a waste of money for the Buyer.

Beware the Bite

There are other details the scam artists share to appear they are looking out for you. They show you how to alter standard contracts. They want to create the appearance they have your interests at heart, but make no mistake, these scam artists are looking out for themselves. Here is a short list for you to copy and paste. If you ever attend any of these scam artist’s meetings, you can go down this list with a smile on your face and your money in your pocket.

Unexpected Fees

  • They charge fees. Every experienced Real Estate Agent has worked with successful investors and is willing to share information for free.
  • Look out for useless hype.
  • Look out for facts and figures from outside the market area you want to invest in.
  • Look out for a system insisting one size fits all.
  • Look out for secret lists and inside information only a few people have.
  • Look out for networks they may claim to have.
  • If you did pay fees for training…. get out the first time you see a fee they forgot to mention.
  • Shy away from advice on how to alter state approved contracts.
  • Avoid systems which suggest negotiations after signing a legal binding contract.
  • Avoid systems telling you to over bid without providing you with current market conditions.
  • Avoid systems based on national statistics.
  • Avoid systems which teach you how to use an inspection to renegotiate purchase price.
  • Run from all inspectors, contractors, and LENDERS who cannot produce proof of a state license. 

The only system that works involves a few simple steps.

  1. Invest in an area you know and are comfortable with.
  2. Get a list of market reports for the area and know the current trend.
  3. Know market prices for both REO purchases and resale prices for turn key properties.
  4. Work with a reliable, licensed general contractor if you are not capable of doing all the repairs yourself.
  5. Get a little background on local ordinances for vacant properties and building codes
  6. Have your own team in place including a licensed Real Estate Agent, Lender, Inspector, and contractors. Form your organization.
  7. Keep expectations realistic…. the current market will do more to determine your success than any other detail.

After posting a number of articles about my experiences with hard money lenders, reading a number of posts, and investigating web sites offering Real Estate hard money loans, I have come to the conclusion, much of Real Estate hard money lending is like chasing the wind. Most web sites charge a fee. Some give you a few names they claim will provide money, but in today’s age of research show how little they actually have to offer. I am the type of guy who believes one should exhibit the morals they live by. Demanding money before providing a service is not what the Real Estate industry is founded on. Real Estate Agents and Brokers do not see a dime until the job is done and the deal is successfully closed. The same with Title companies and others involved in the industry. Inspectors do not charge until they show up at the property, perform the inspection, showing the client their expertise and value. This is the moral standard the Real Estate industry should build upon. But the advent of the computer age has tried long and hard to change that.

A Little on Wisconsin Laws on Referrals

There are laws governing referral fees. The Internet opened doors for a number of industries to come in and side step those laws. In Wisconsin no one is allowed to split commission, or pay a referral fee to anyone who is not a licensed Real Estate Agent or Broker. The same is true for lenders. Out of state on line companies ignore this law by advertising a referral service, then try calling it an advertising fee to get around the law. Think of what this is doing to the Real Estate industry. If you are selling your home, your most important asset, do you really want to begin a business relationship with any company willing to break the law to make a sale? This is why I do not and will not participate in any unlicensed referral service. If these services were legitimate, they would wait until the transaction closed before collecting any fee.

Fees

Lenders are the only aspect of Real Estate that charge an up front fee. Usually an application fee and funds to pay for the appraisal. The appraiser gets paid after providing services, but before closing, whether or not the transaction closes. But what about hard money lenders? Based on experience and the things I see on the Internet, much of the so called hard money industry is based on up front fees with little or no success based on the company you are dealing with. I suspect many of those companies exist only as a web site with no hard cash to back them up. The problem is, how do you tell the difference? What can you do to protect yourself? Who can you trust?

Search for a Real Estate Hard Money Loan

The first logical step would be a local Real Estate Agent. Most work in offices with a number of Agents dedicated to helping one another, which establishes a network of information and people. Call around until you find someone with a local connection for a personal hard money loan. You are always better off dealing with someone face to face, hopefully a licensed lender able to arrange a loan with private funds for of course a fee. Within minutes, at the most a day or two, you should be able to find out if you qualify. They should also be able to discuss terms in simple language. Ask questions about fees, length of the loan, penalties, and options. Don’t forget to clarify the cost of the options. Ask for everything in writing to review. This may cost you an application fee, but local fees are normally far less than those charged by Internet based companies. It is also a good idea to have your attorney review everything before you sign. Who knows, once your attorney sees the conditions, they may want to provide you with a private loan.

I’m sure a lot of Real Estate Agents, Buyers, and Sellers have seen this scam, presented by email spam. It is a simple scam. The scammer sends out emails to people who the know are going to close on a real estate sale. There are many variations of this scam, the most popular introduces either a virus or spyware to your computer. Maybe both.

The email tells you to immediately sign a set of documents. They are set up to Esign All you need to do is click a link. DON’T DO IT!

How to Detect and Avoid the eSign Scam

Check out the Sender

The email is not from one of the available esign companies. That is the first tip. The email address clearly appears as a made up email address, and normally ends with a DOT, something other than COM, NET, or one of the other common business suffixes.

What you want to do is learn How to Detect and Avoid the eSign Scam. If you suspect anything, forward the email to the Real Estate Agent you are working with. Most have extensive experience and training on internet fraud.

If you want to check into the email, RIGHT (not left click, which will active the link) make sure you RIGHT click on the link. A box will open and chose COPY LINK. Then paste the link into a word processor document. Preferably a blank page. Now you can see the link, and where it will take you. Now you can copy the site name, and enter it into your favorite search bar on your browser to see what comes up. Most will show information on a company, usually like a company providing cloud based storage for documents. No Real Estate firm deals with offshore cloud based accounts. The link may also be to a Google account. Still, DON”T trust it. Call your Agent to find out if there is something for you to sign.

This is popular with scammers using that ransom virus and its offshoots. You don’t want to go there.

One Example of an Email Scam

Here is an example. The email is from an unknown address.

Webscam@BrennanWasdenLLC. onmicrosoft.com

This is not an email address for any Esign company. The email contains a link in blue letters that says:

View|Download files

When I copy the link location, I come up with this.

Http:// dfgcxfatrfamhf .com/press/drobox2017newdocindex/db2016/

I cleared the formatting and added a few spaces to render that link harmless, and changed a few letters so it will not link to anything.

Notice where the company name should be, after the Http, is a set of nonsense. That tells you, it is a made up domain, no company exists, and it is a scam.

Where the Scammers Got Your Information

How do they know you are working on closing on a real estate deal? There is a leak in the system. Someone in the trail of emails is using a public, unsecured email account like Gmail Yahoo, Hotmail, or some other free service. I can email back and forth with a bank and title company all week long with nothing happening. As soon as I forward information about a closing to a client using unsecured email, I get a flood of email scams. I have to tell my clients, I will call you when I send documents to esign. Don’t open up any other emails concerning any type of documents. It is as simple as that.

This is not restricted to the Real Estate industry. Scammers will send this scam to any email address they can. So be careful with any email that asks you to click a link. Look at the senders address, and the actual link if you feel qualified.