Normally, we all recognize scam emails trying to swindle money. Typically, these mass emails claim to be foreign heads-of-state who want to deposit millions of dollars in YOUR bank account. We hit the “delete” button and forget about them. Well, my office was recently targeted for a more sophisticated real estate scam. In this case, it was not just a mass email. The culprit, “Dr. Chang Wong” filled out a detailed property search form that gave us pause:
NameAddress: Dr. Chang Wong
Banshan County, Gongshu Dct, Hangzhou Zhejiang 310022
PriceRange: $500,000.00USD to $900,000.00USD
Comments: Dear Sir/Madam,
I am Dr. Chang Wong The Chief Financial Officer for Cnooc Limited, China. We are currently looking to buy a house in any nice neighborhood for our Retering president of our company.
We are currently looking to buy a four (4) to six bed rooms house with the price ranging from $500,000.00USD to $900,000.00USD and we would want to retain your lawyer in all the process buying the property e.g. documentation and payment. Please if you have properties with similar description please contact me as soon as possible so that we can make arrangement for the payment and all paper work. My client is willing to make a full payment of any choosing property. Please contact me at my email: [email protected]
I was not sure if this was a fake, so we initially treated the lead as real. One of my team members sent Dr. Wong a list of homes, and he corresponded back by email. He picked an $850,000 house in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and asked for names of attorneys to represent him. Again, communicating by email, he picked one of the local law firms and wanted to solidify a contract. All along, we were suspicious this might be a scam, but a bit optimistic. Dr. Wong could be an international jet-setter that just buys homes without viewing them, right?
The next clue that Dr. Wong might be a scam-artist came was undeniable. Read his email:
BUYER AND SELLER AGREE TO DEPOSIT $300,000.00 AGAINST THE PROPERTY, CHECK TO BE SENT BY STOCKBROKER. BUYER WILL ADD ADDITIONAL $200,000.00 TOTAL $500,000.00 THIS MONEY WILL BE USE TO BUY A NEW APPLIANCES FOR THE PROPERTY, ALL THE MONEYS IN THE LAWYER COMPANY’S TRUST ACCOUNT BUYER AND SELLER AGREE TO ALLOW THE LAWYERS TO DISPERSE MONEYS AT THE BUYERS REQUEST; A MINIMUM OF $300,000.00 MUST STAY IN THE LAWYERS COMPANY TRUST ACCOUNT UNTIL SAID TRANSACTION CLOSES. BUYER HERE BY REMOVE ANY ALL CONTINGENCIES ON SAID PURCHASE AGREEMENT
$500,000 for new appliances, Dr. Wong? With a “check” from your stockbroker, not wired funds? That some “bank” will verify as authentic? OK, hold on! Dr. Wong, appliances might only cost $10,000! Were you thinking the excess $490,000 would be wired back to you in REAL AMERICAN DOLLARS. BUSTED!!
The local attorney contacted the FBI, and we learned that Dr. Wong is really in Nigeria (where else?). Further, there is nothing the FBI can do, since it is practically untraceable and overseas.
So, be warned. I have since found Dr. Wong on other real estate sites, filling out forms and making inquiries. Don’t be the one who sells him a house.
Wendy Rulnick, Broker, CRP, CRS, GRI, ABR Rulnick Realty, Inc.
Call toll-free 1-877-ITS-WNDY (1-877-487-9639) or local 850-650-7883 ext 204
Email Wendy: [email protected]