To minimise the risk of any sort of property scam, we would suggest that you use a reputable estate agent. In France, membership of the FNAIM is a good indicator as it has a strict code of professional ethics. Below are five of the more common property scams.
- One of the more common real estate scams out there is the “seller away on vacation.” In this scam the seller will post an advertisement, typically online. When a potential buyer or tenant responds to the ad, the seller will notify them that they are away on a long term vacation, business trip, charity function, or other activity that is keeping them away from their home. They will ask that you send them your bank information or other personal information through e-mail, so that they can mail you the keys to your new place. The way to avoid this is to never, ever give out personal information online or over the phone.
- Another common scam is the false company or housing organization. Many scammers will pretend to be members of a company, and will post advertisements for French homes and French property that they do not actually own. The easiest way to avoid this is to make sure you can meet in person, and to make sure not to send information to any company or organization whose legitimacy you cannot verify.
- One type of scam pretends to offer services on behalf of the advertising website or company through which they are pretending to sell housing. For example, you might inquire about a house only to get offered “buyer’s insurance” before the deal. Most advertising sites will never provide services beyond the advertisement itself, and will not contact you through the seller (unless you are buying directly from the company itself).
- Requesting financial information beforehand is one of the most common types of online scams, and not just for real estate. Never give out financial information online. This could include anything from your credit card number to your bank account information, or even your PayPal account info. The easiest way to avoid almost every online scam is to insist on meeting in person.
- The “Sob Story” is another particularly common scam, in which the “renter” or “seller” will post a tragic tale online, possibly about losing a loved one or being forced to move, in order to make potential buyers feel sorry for them, thus decreasing the chance of being seen as a fake through the eyes of the buyer. Again, insisting on meeting the seller in person and refusing to send personal or financial information online or by phone is the best way to avoid this one.