Unmasking Real Estate Agent Scams: Protecting Home Buyers from Predatory Practices

Apr 17, 2023

Buying a home is one of the most significant investments you'll ever make. With so much at stake, it's essential to protect yourself from unscrupulous real estate agents who may take advantage of your trust. This article will cover common types of real estate agent scams, warning signs to watch for, and tips on how to protect yourself from predatory practices.


Common Types of Real Estate Agent Scams

The Dual Agency Scam

A dual agency scam occurs when a real estate agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a transaction, creating a conflict of interest. The agent may prioritize their commission over the best interests of their clients. To avoid this scam, ensure you work with a dedicated buyer's agent who represents your interests exclusively.


The Bait-and-Switch Scam

In this scam, an agent lures potential buyers with attractive listings, only to reveal that the property is no longer available or was never on the market. The agent then tries to sell the buyer a less desirable property, often at a higher price. To avoid falling victim to this tactic, be cautious if an agent consistently shows you properties that don't match your criteria.


The Phantom Property Scam

Phantom property scams involve an agent advertising a property that doesn't exist or belongs to someone else. This tactic is often used to collect personal information or upfront fees from potential buyers. To protect yourself, verify property ownership and check the agent's credentials before providing any sensitive information or payment.


Warning Signs of a Scam 

High-Pressure Tactics

Unscrupulous agents may pressure you to make hasty decisions, often using fear of missing out or urgency to manipulate you. Trust your instincts and take your time when making decisions; a reputable agent will respect your need for due diligence.


Lack of Transparency

An agent who avoids answering questions or provides vague information may be attempting to hide something. Always ask for clarification and request documentation to verify the information provided.


Unusual Payment Requests

If an agent requests payment in cash or via unconventional methods, this could be a red flag. Stick to traditional payment methods, and always request a receipt for any funds exchanged.


Protecting Yourself from Scams

Research Your Agent

Before hiring a real estate agent, research their background, credentials, and reviews from previous clients. Check for any disciplinary actions or complaints filed against them, and consider asking for references.


Review Contracts Carefully

Always read and understand any contracts before signing. If you're unsure about any terms or conditions, consult a real estate attorney for guidance. Never sign a blank or incomplete contract, as this leaves room for manipulation by dishonest agents.


Maintain Open Communication

Establish clear lines of communication with your agent and make your expectations known. By maintaining open communication, you can quickly identify any inconsistencies or questionable behavior.



While the majority of real estate agents are honest professionals, it's crucial to be aware of potential scams and take steps to protect yourself. By understanding common scams, recognizing warning signs, and following best practices for hiring and working with an agent, you can help ensure a positive home-buying experience.



  1. How can I verify a real estate agent's credentials? You can check an agent's credentials by verifying their license status with your state's real estate regulatory agency. Additionally, research their professional background and read reviews from past clients.

  2. What should I do if I suspect my real estate agent is involved in a scam? If you suspect your agent is involved in a scam, gather all relevant documentation and report your concerns to your state's real estate regulatory agency. You may also want to consult a real estate attorney for legal advice.

  3. Is it possible to recover funds lost to a real estate scam? Recovering funds lost to a scam can be difficult, but not impossible. Reporting the scam to the appropriate authorities and seeking legal counsel may increase your chances of recovery.

  4. How can I protect myself from real estate scams when purchasing a home from another country? When buying property abroad, work with reputable agents, and enlist the help of a local real estate attorney. Additionally, conduct thorough research on the property, ownership, and local real estate regulations.

  5. What are some other resources for learning about real estate scams and how to avoid them? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offer resources and advice on avoiding real estate scams. You can also consult your state's real estate regulatory agency for guidance.

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