Martha’s Vineyard real estate agents are issuing a warning about a new scam where people are listing properties for sale they don’t actually own, and that aren’t for sale.
Multiple agents have described how scammers will list a property for sale at a reduced price, and then ask for a money wire.
While local brokers say they have been able to confirm when listings are fake, they recommend that brokers conduct more background research before listing properties. Some also fear their reputations could be hurt.
Leslie Floyd, the owner of Portfolio Properties on the Island, said that she called the actual landowners to list the property from one of these scams, only to get an angry response from the landowner, who said the property wasn’t actually for sale. “I just want the people of Martha’s Vineyard to know that we’re just doing our job,” Floyd said.
Floyd noted that she’s seen multiple fake listings over Zillow and Redfin, popular online real estate listing sites. She said that in one instance, the scammers told her that they were dying of cancer and needed to make money quickly.
James Feiner with Feiner Real Estate is another Island real estate agent to contact The Times about the scams. He says he has known of five of these fake listings within the past 40 days.
One of the properties he saw was listed over Zillow, but Feiner says the rest were posted by actual brokers through an online database called LINK.
The first scam he encountered was the sale of a quarter-acre undeveloped lot in Oak Bluffs on Deer Run Road. The property was listed on Zillow for about $370,000, which he said is cheaper than typical, but not a fire sale.
Feiner said that the sellers had accents, and were trying to sell the property quickly in order to buy another property. He did some research and found a photo of the owners, and said that they didn’t match the accents of the individuals he had spoken to.
Once he realized it was a scam, Feiner said that he contacted the police, and was put in touch with a detective in Oak Bluffs. He also tried to stay in touch with the scammers in an effort to get them to come to the Island, where they could potentially be charged with a crime. When that didn’t work, Feiner said there wasn’t much the local police could do.
Feiner says he also saw scams advertising property in Chilmark, and a property in West Tisbury that was actually posted by a local broker.
He said that the scammers have a level of sophistication. In one instance, they were able to provide an identification with the real landowner’s name on it. That’s needed for a wire transfer.
“This behooves us to do more due diligence when we are talking to a potential seller,” Feiner said.
The scam also comes at a time with a shrinking amount of property for sale, causing brokers to jump on a potential sale quickly to get ahead of the competition.
Feiner says that there were typically — before the pandemic — about 450 to 500 homes and properties for sale. Now, he says there are just about 70 homes listed. And he says that more brokers are trying to sell homes, with the price so high. That’s making for a more competitive market.
Meantime, many families are anxious to buy a property to build a home, with not much available, further driving the market.
For Floyd at Portfolio Properties, she said that anyone looking to buy a property should make sure they do their homework before wiring any money. While scammers might be able to create fake identification, it’s important to double- and triple-check the identification.
If anybody thinks this is a “new” scam, I have a bridge to sell them.
But thank you Sam for pointing this out. It might actually prevent someone from being scammed. And if the scammers are unsuccessful, they might give up and get a real job.
It seems there are plenty of them around.
Simple solution. Never give money directly to the seller. Give to any licensed Massachusetts attorney and your safe.
How many formerly licensed Massachusetts attorneys have gone to jail?
I was thinking the same thing about attorneys. In fact, some of them right here on the island. The scammers get more clever all the time a good reminder for people. And people need to watch out for real estate agents as well as 30 years ago there was a local real estate agent who turned out to be someone not to be trusted.
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