Fraud during the home buying process is a serious and growing problem in South Africa, especially in the digital age where scammers can easily impersonate legitimate sellers, agents, or conveyancers and intercept communication to divert funds to their own accounts. South Africa is now reportedly the “second most targeted country in the world with regard to cyber-attacks” (Law Society of South Africa).

We explain some of the common types of fraud that can occur during the home buying process and how you can avoid becoming a victim of these scams.

What is fraud?

Fraud during the home buying process is any illegal activity that involves deception or misrepresentation in relation to a property transaction. It can affect buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords, agents, or conveyancers. Some of the common types of fraud are:

Fake homeowners: Scammers use existing listings of properties for sale or rent and contact potential buyers or tenants using the name and identity of the actual owner. They usually ask to meet in person and leave agents out of the deal, claiming they want to save on commission. They then collect deposits or payments and disappear.

Identity theft: Scammers steal personal information of property owners or buyers and use it to create fake credit accounts, bank accounts, or documents. They then use these to apply for loans, buy or sell properties, or transfer funds without the knowledge or consent of the victims.

Phishing: Scammers send emails or messages posing as legitimate institutions, such as banks, agents, or conveyancers, and ask for private data, such as banking details, passwords, or personal identification information. They then use this information to access accounts or commit fraud.

Fake agents: Scammers create fake websites or profiles of real estate agencies or agents and advertise properties that are not theirs or do not exist. They then lure buyers or tenants into paying deposits or fees before disappearing.

Misrepresentation: Scammers provide false or misleading information about a property’s condition, value, features, or legal status to induce buyers or sellers to enter into a contract that is unfavourable to them. When buying a home in South Africa, it’s important for homebuyers to be cautious and take steps to prevent fraud.

Selling of RDP houses: Scammers may attempt to sell RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) houses that they do not own or have the right to sell.

Fees to “speed up” public housing applications: Fraudsters may request fees from individuals, promising to expedite their public housing applications. However, these fees are often illegitimate and result in no progress being made.

Fraudulent rentals: Scammers may advertise non-existent or cloned properties for rent, tricking people into paying a deposit or application fee.

“These are just a few examples of scams in South Africa. It’s important to remain vigilant and take precautions when engaging in property transactions. Working with reputable professionals and conducting thorough research can help protect against falling victim to these scams.” Says Shaun Rademeyer, CEO of MultiNET Homeloans.

Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

1. Research the property: Before making an offer, conduct thorough research on the property and its history. Verify the ownership details, check if there are any liens or encumbrances, and ensure that the property is legally registered.

2. Use reputable estate agents: Work with reputable estate agents who have a good track record and positive reviews. They can guide you through the process and help you identify potential red flags.

3. Get a professional home inspection: Insist on a professional home inspection to identify any hidden defects or structural issues. This can help you make an informed decision and avoid purchasing a property with costly problems.

4. Verify the seller’s identity: Request proof of identity from the seller and verify their details. Be cautious if the seller is unwilling to provide identification or if their information seems suspicious.

5. Secure financing through trusted institutions: When obtaining financing for your home purchase, choose trusted financial institutions and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Avoid sharing sensitive financial information with unknown or unverified parties.

6. Be cautious with deposits and payments: Avoid making large cash payments or transferring funds directly to individuals without proper documentation. Use secure payment methods and ensure that all transactions are properly recorded.

Keep all your anti-virus, anti-malware and other security software updated, learn all about protecting yourself from malware/spyware/phishing attacks, and generally treat all electronic communications with caution – even those appearing to come from a trusted source like your attorney.

7. Consult legal professionals: Seek advice from qualified legal professionals who specialize in property transactions. They can review contracts, offer legal guidance, and help protect your interests throughout the process.

8. Most importantly, never accept notification of any supposed change in your attorney’s banking details without visiting or phoning your attorney to check all is in order (don’t of course use the contact details given in the suspicious email, they could also have been modified!).

Rademeyer closes with “Remember, prevention is key when it comes to avoiding fraud in your home buying transaction. By taking these precautions and working with trusted professionals, you can minimise the risk of falling victim to fraudulent schemes.”

For more information: 0861 54 54 44 | WA 061 537 8778 | |

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