California is a prime target for senior financial abuse as it is the nation’s highest retirement destination, with an estimated 4.2 million people over age 65 living in the Golden State in 2012.
The California Department of Finance projects that by 2020, California’s over-65 population will have increased by 50 percent from 2010 to 6 million and by 2020 will have doubled to 8.4 million as even the youngest baby boomers reach 65 years old.
At an age when the labors of a lifetime should be enjoyed, con artists, unscrupulous companies, caregivers, and even trusted family members are exploiting many seniors. The outcome often is devastating. Without financial resources, physical and emotional well-being decline and seniors lose their independence.
Seniors are often looking to sell their home to move to an assisted living facility and working with a licensed real estate agent is the proper way to go. But many seniors are not even thinking of selling – until a fraudster shows up their door. The scammer sweet-talks vulnerable seniors with “a sure-fire way to sell their home and make a great profit.”
Often times, it takes a senior a little longer to understand what is being said, process the information and decide whether the offer sounds reasonable. Fast-talking thieves take advantage of this weakness.
Remember, they do this for a living and are very good at it!
These “red flags” are some of the things you should watch for:
Unsolicited offer to sell
The person who contacts you calls himself or herself a real estate agent or broker in the real estate industry. They claim they already have a pre-existing buyer set up. The buyer is interested in buying the home right away. The “agent” has a contract. All the senior needs to do is sign the contract.
A real estate agent contacts the senior and says they have an out-of-town purchaser who wants to get a contract signed before they leave. If seniors fall for this, they have no way of tracing that person; no way of knowing if they actually exist. This scam usually involved a spur-of-moment decision. He or she may say something like; “My out-of-town buyer is getting on plane in 30 minutes. If I don’t tell them before they leave, the deal is off.”
An “agent” who doesn’t answer questions directly may be a scammer. Being vague about the buyer, what real estate company they represent, or why the buyer does not want to look at the inside of the home are all red flags and mean the deal is very likely a scam.
Pressure for a Decision
The “agent” has a valid-looking contract in hand – all it requires is the senior’s signature, right away. The reason for an immediate decision is typically tied to the other red flag – the out-of-town buyer is ready to leave.
To protect yourself from real estate fraud:
Keep open dialogue
If a caregiver or family member has regular, open communication with the senior, frauds can be prevented. Ask your senior to never sign anything or give any personal information, such as a social security number or credit card numbers, without calling a family member first.
Use Trusted Professionals for Advice
Whenever possible, seek out the advice and guidance of trusted professionals (attorneys, real estate agents, financial planners, and mortgage brokers, etc.) to answer questions and provide guidance.
As discussed above, fraud by predators and scammers against seniors in the area of real estate requires that you be vigilant and skeptical, proceed cautiously and do your homework.
If you have any questions about real estate fraud please give me a call and I can provide a listing of resources and agencies for you to contact to get further information and help.