How the scam works:
You are interested in buying a property or a land in a different country and start looking for places. Finding a great investment opportunity to build a house, let's say, in Bulgaria, you even come across an established developer. Upon researching his portfolio, everything looks good and trustworthy, because it genuinely is.
This is how the fraud works: the scammers start by being intermediaries (between clients and developers) and find great investments for those interested. They find the first couple of buyers, and they get them, along with the developer, to sign a purchase agreement. Once they have brought two or three clients to the developer, the scammers get the developer's trust. Then, they will start advertising themselves as the seller, removing the developer's name from the contract and inserting theirs.
The new buyer, who could be you, finds the developer's name online, looks at their work and reputation, and decides to contact them. Since the scammers are pretending to be the sellers, they will get the victims to pay and – after the money is wired – they stop any contact with the buyer. After calling and e-mailing several times, the victims might find the real developer – who, of course, claims didn't get any money and is equally a victim.
How to avoid:
Buying property abroad is fraught with this sort of scam and fraud. Unless you have an excellent knowledge of the foreign country, speak its language and can go there and talk to the developer, it might be better just to stay home.
Any land and property investment should not be made without due diligence. Talk to an investment advisor, but only after you do your diligence about him/her, too. There are many legitimate property investment companies out there, so if you match the right advisor with the right organization, you could score big. However, remember that like any other investment, profit is not guaranteed 100%. Last, but not least, don't be afraid to buy Investing for Dummies from a bookstore near you.
How to protect yourself more:
If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You'll receive periodical emails and we promise not to spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.
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