Friday, September 10, 2010

Fraud Alert: Canadian Checks

It was reported as early as June of this year that some real estate agents were being approached by clients via email (and in many cases through Trulia) to facilitate the purchase of a home. The fact pattern went something like this:

"Buyer" contacts agent through Trulia's "Voices" channel, offering to purchase a certain house for $XXX,XXX.00. The individual is very clear about (1) being foreign (often he is an Asian individual living in Canada); and (2) having cash to purchase the property. He is particular about using Docusign, and once agreement is signed sends the checks (often written from a Canadian bank) for EMD + additional deposits to either brokerage or title company. The problem is that the checks they provide for closing funds are counterfeit. Shortly after the checks are received, the "buyer" cancels contract and demands the funds be wired back to them. If the scam is successful, the funds are wired back before it is determined the checks are counterfeit.

Some online examples of this fraud can be found here, here and here.

Note that a Maryland agent has been approached with a similar offer as recently as today. Should you be approached by someone with a similar fact pattern, tread lightly. Feel free to contact us, and we'll go through the specifics with our underwriting counsel. Under no circumstances should you wire funds out of any accounts until you are 100% sure they are in your account and under your control.