Real estate agents get lesson in fraud
February 7, 2008
FRISCO ” Summit real estate agents got a lesson in identity theft prevention Thursday morning at a workshop detailing a nationwide problem quickly seeping into the industry.
Although there have been very few cases of real estate fraud in Summit County, the problem remains a hot button issue. More than 20 local agents came out to learn more.
Janet Elkins, a fraud specialist at Alpine Bank, gave a quick tutorial on how individuals can prevent against identity theft, as well as how business can make smarter choices to prevent thieves from getting their foot in the door.
According to Elkin, fraud specialists sent more than 500 million hours last year assisting victims of identity theft, and the out-of-pocket cost for those victims usually averages more than $2,000.
“Americans are a very trusting people,” said Elkins. “When people come to me they always say the same thing: ‘Oh gosh, how did this happen?'”
Elkin urged local real estate agents to be weary of accepting cashier checks and postal money orders as they are no longer guaranteed funds. Last year the FDIC sent out more than 300 notices of false cashier checks floating around the country.
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“As title closers, all we have are our senses to detect fraud,” said DeeAnna Herwig with Land Title. “Real estate fraud has become a huge white collar crime throughout the country, and in resort towns like our sometimes listing agents aren’t even meeting clients face-to-face, so it’s important to take the extra time and ensure that who you are dealing with is really who they say they are.”
As Summit County’s population continues to grow so do the opportunities for real estate fraud, putting agents and closers on high alert.
“I came here to find out more information on not only how to protect myself against identity theft, but also how I can help protect my clients when handling their private information,” said real estate agent Sandy Coulter with the Metro Brokers office in Silverthorne. “I think this is a real timely topic in today’s world and it’s important to be on the cutting edge.”
Coulter knows from personal experience how devastating identity theft can be. While looking through her credit statement a few years ago she noticed charges for flowers in Ohio and cash withdrawals in England.
“I had to say, wait, I haven’t been in Ohio or England. Luckily I was able to contact my card company and get it resolved,” said Coulter.
In Colorado alone there have been 2,660 reported victims of identity theft, with credit card fraud topping the list as the most frequent type of identity theft.
“There is always more information to know,” said Shaunna Kapper with Omni Real Estate. “I’m new to the business, so a free education on identity theft was something I wasn’t about to pass up.”
As identity thieves become savvy with new technologies that make fraud even easier, businesses as well as individuals are becoming more susceptible to deception.
“Identity theft is really starting to become prevalent in our industry,” said Brooke Roberts with Land Title, which organized the workshop. “It’s important that we stay educated because in the worst case scenario we have to testify in cases like these.”