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Monday, July 16, 2012

How Can One Be Scammed in Real Estate? Help Me Count the Ways!

[Published July 19, 2012, in the Denver Post and the Jeffco weeklies]

I say “help me” instead of “let me”, because I’d like to hear — and share — other ways in which low-life scammers cheat honest and trusting people out of their money. I have posted this column on my blog to facilitate that sharing.

The lowliest form of scamming is the victimization of elderly people. I personally am familiar with a now-deceased man with Alzheimers whose neighbor befriended him and convinced him to sign a will naming her sole beneficiary. She also had him sign a durable power of attorney, so when a caring neighbor took him to the hospital, she was able to take him home to die.  She had him add her as a signatory on his bank accounts and drained over $30,000 from them even before he died. When an out-of-state relative was alerted to the situation and got the court to name her as the man’s conservator, the neighbor’s scum-bag attorney helped to reverse that decision on a technicality and she inherited the house and sold it.

Another elderly person who walks to the public library (he has no car) to use its computer for email asked me to show him a $4 million home. He explained that he had inherited $24 million from his birth father who had been a miner in Nigeria. (He didn’t know who his birth father was until he was alerted by an email from a scammer in Nigeria.)  This man had been wiring his entire Social Security income to his Nigerian “lawyer” for over two years to pay for one fee after another. I personally took him to a meeting with two assistant district attorneys who specialize in fraud and they, like me, couldn’t convince him to stop sending $700 to Nigeria each month.  He firmly believes that his credit union will start receiving $10,000 every 10 minutes after just one more legal fee is paid. So far, he has sent over $15,000 to his scammer.

A lesser scam I’ve written about before involves advertising a home for rent on craigslist that the scammer does not own. So many of my own listings have been the subject of this scam that I have printed up a sign to put on those listings the minute I hear it has been advertised for rent on craigslist.  The sign says “NOT FOR RENT — Beware of Internet Scams.”

There are many other scams — more than space allows me to describe. Share your stories as comments to this blog post.


  1. A reader called to say she was scammed by a female pastor in Arvada. They struck a deal for the victim to pay the mortgage and live in the house leading to a possible purchase, but those payments were made to the pastor who was supposed to pay the mortgage but did not. Now the victim is being evicted because the bank foreclosed on the property.

    To avoid this scam, the victim could have done what's called a "wrap", and I wrote about how to do that in my column on June 9, 2011, which you can find at

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