TREB News | Jan 21, 2021
Verifying the identity and documents of a potential tenant, buyer, or seller is critical.
Last week, one of our Members received a call from a Montreal area code regarding a condo she had just listed. The caller, Daniel P., said he did not need to see it as he currently lives in the building but wants a larger unit. He provided the Member with the documentation that she required of him, and she prepared the offer for his signature. From his application information, she tried contacting his current landlord, work supervisor and other references, and she researched the company employing him. His current landlord, Mr. Lee, told her that he was a good tenant. However, she noticed that the landlord’s phone number was different than the listing salesperson with the same name who had allegedly leased the unit to Daniel in January of 2020 and was currently up for lease. When she called the real Mr. Lee from the January 2020 lease information, he confirmed that Daniel was neither the current tenant nor had he ever heard of him. In her dealings with investigating his alleged place of employment and supervisor, she also discovered he had provided false information that closely resembled legitimate company names and logos.
FRAUD 'RED FLAG' CHECKLISTS AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD
Real estate fraud is a growing concern in Canada, and has significant ramifications for real estate professionals. TREB’s ‘Slam the Scam’ panel discussion at the 2006 Annual General Meeting addressed some concerns related to fraud and provided some important information as to how Members can protect themselves.
Members are encouraged to make use of the following Red Flag checklists from the AGM course material. They offer advice for recognizing fraudulent or dangerous situations, and may be downloaded or printed for future reference or distribution.
- Marijuana Grow Houses -- Red Flags
- Mortgage Fraud -- Red Flags
- Identity Theft -- Red Flags
- REALTOR® Safety -- Tips
- Money Laundering -- Red Flags
MEMBER REMINDER REGARDING MORTGAGE FRAUD
Please note that if you suspect that a mortgage fraud has been perpetrated by another real estate registrant, you can report this to Brian Prendergast, Manager of Inspections & Investigations at the Real Estate Council of Ontario (416) 207-4818.
Should you be approached by individuals who want you to engage in mortgage fraud you can report this to the police. The Toronto Police have a Fraud Squad that can be reached at (416) 808 7300. Otherwise, contact the nearest division of your local police force & ask for the department that handles fraud issues.
Every year there are REALTORS® who become victims of crime while on the job. The work environment of a real estate professional can expose them to situations that leave them vulnerable to crimes ranging from fraud or theft to assault, & tragically even murder. Unfortunately, the risks are very real. There are several aspects of being a REALTOR® that contribute to the increased amount of risk involved in the profession. The best defense is knowing where the risks lie & recognizing that precautions must be taken.
RISKY BUSINESS: WHY ARE REALTORS MORE FREQUENTLY IN DANGER THAN PEOPLE IN SOME OTHER PROFESSIONS?
REALTORS® generally work & travel alone, often at night & in areas they may not know well. In addition, they regularly come into close contact with strangers & may be alone while showing a property. It is also a priority in real estate to market a successful image, which means making sure your photo & name is very visible in the community. All of these elements of the job can add to the danger of doing business. It is important to be conscious of what you can do to minimize your exposure to potentially dangerous situations. Whether it is in the office, on the road or at a showing, keeping in mind the following four rules will help you stay safe.
PREPARE: Equip yourself with the information & equipment you need to stay safe. Some basic early preparation can be a close ally in times of need. Regardless of whether your client is from "out of town” or “doesn't have much time" be sure to verify their identity. Get their car’s make & license number & if you can, photocopy their driver's license. Meet them at the office first & complete a Client I.D. Form.
BE AWARE: Understand the situation you are in & always be aware of your surroundings. A general attitude of awareness is the greatest safety tool in your possession.
STAY MOBILE: If you are able to move about freely, you can more easily avoid dangerous situations, & escape from them if they do occur.
STAY IN CONTACT: There are more ways than ever to communicate with people. Tell them where you are going & what you are doing.
ON THE MOVE
Being a successful real estate professional means being constantly on the move - meeting with clients, looking at properties & running errands. For many REALTORS®, their car is their second home, & nowadays even a second office. Safety needs to be a priority for anyone on the move this much.
• Be careful how you dress. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery that attracts attention.
• Carry a list of important telephone numbers with you at all times, including friends, family & insurance numbers.
• Carry only the cash & cards that you absolutely need.
• Carry a loud whistle or portable alarm with you & practice using it so you are comfortable with how if feels.
• Always keep your car properly tuned & in good working order.
• Never run your car with less than a quarter-tank of gas in it. This will protect you from running out.
• Keep a flashlight, maps & a "CALL POLICE" or "CALL TOW TRUCK" sign in your glove compartment.
• In your trunk, keep a container of motor oil, gallon of water, tire jack, reflectors, flares, blanket, first-aid kit, candle, matches, umbrella & spare tire in the case of emergency.
• Avoid parking in poorly lit streets & parking lots.
• Always lock your car & take your keys with you, even if you are just making a brief stop or running an errand.
• Never leave any valuables visible in the car.
• Lock your briefcase & any items of value in the trunk.
• Get into the habit of always checking the front & back seats of the car before getting in.
• If you are in a questionable area & you get a flat tire, keep driving until you get to a safe place.
• Remember that your car is the safest place for you, stay inside it if you have to wait for help.
• If you are forced to stop & can't use your cell phone, open the window only slightly to ask someone for assistance.
• If you ever feel threatened by anyone while stopped, tell them that the police have been called & are on their way.
• When parking at night, make sure your car is left in a well-lit, visible location.
• Make a mental note of where you are parked & make sure you can get out of the spot easily.
• When you are walking from place to place, try not to carry so much that you can't easily drop it & run.
• Also, make sure you can access the things you may need in an emergency like your phone or a whistle.
• Walk briskly & confidently with your head up & with a definite destination in mind.
• Especially for women, being lost in thought, looking down or rifling through a handbag can leave you vulnerable.
STAY IN CONTACT
• Keep a charged cell phone with you at all times.
• Keep your phone easily accessible, & practice getting to it in a hurry. If it takes more than a couple of seconds, change where you keep it.
• Always carry enough small change to make several emergency telephone calls if you cannot use your cell phone.
AT A SHOWING
Showing a home can present situations that leave you vulnerable. Usually you are in unfamiliar territory, possibly by yourself & dealing with people you don't know well. Caution is needed to ensure you remain in control of the situation at all times.
• Leave personal details out of brochures & advertisements. Concentrate on your professional proficiency.
• Meet prospects at your office or a neutral location the first time not at the property or the prospect's home.
• Find out as much as you can about prospects, such as where they work & what they do before you go any further with them.
• Take a photocopy of their driver's license.
• Try to introduce the prospect to someone in your office. If their intentions are hostile, they won't want to be noticed or receive any attention.
• Arrange a secret telephone distress code at your office that you can use when you are in an uncomfortable situation & you don't want the person you are with to know. Choose something that is easy to remember, like "pull the red file."
• Get to know your sales area. Preview the property.
• When you enter the house check to see that there is nothing out of place & that there is no one there who shouldn't be.
• Once inside, turn on the lights & open the curtains. Though you would probably do this to better show the space, it can also keep you safe.
• Check all the rooms & make a mental floor plan of the house.
• Investigate the layout of the back yard to plan how you would escape from it if you had to.
• When prospects arrive, jot down car descriptions & physical descriptions.
• Saleswomen should be wary of male buyers who'll only work with a female
• And of males who drop in the office & ask to see a vacant or isolated property right away.
• Only give your home phone number to a prospect if you know them & trust them. Write it on your card, but be aware of the risks of doing so.
• Always use your own car or take separate cars - never ride in the prospect's car.
• Make sure your car can't be blocked in the driveway by a prospect's vehicle.
• If you arrive together, unlock the door & allow the prospects to enter the home first.
• Keep the prospect in front of you throughout the showing.
• Indicate that you would like them to enter the room before you by motioning with your hand.
• In condominium complexes, be especially wary of isolated areas such as laundry or supply rooms. Avoid using deserted or isolated stairways.
STAY IN CONTACT
• Keep your cell phone very easily accessible.
• Before leaving the office, tell several people that you're going to show homes & give them a list of the properties.
• If you're showing several properties, phone your office occasionally to check in.
• If you are at all uncomfortable in a situation, use these calls as an excuse to return to the office.
AT THE OFFICE
Whether it is at a company office or home office, chances are you'll have to put in some late night overtime at some point, and you may even be working by yourself when you do. Make sure you take some precautions.
• Don't broadcast that you have a home office with a lot of expensive equipment in it.
• Keep computers and things away from main windows and don't invite people to your home office if you can avoid it.
• Keep a radio or TV playing in the back room when you're alone in the office.
• Secure all unused doors and windows, especially if they are in the rear of the office and out of sight and ear shot.
• Especially for women, consider leaving a pair of men's shoes right by the door so it looks like you are not alone.
• If you will be entering or leaving in the dark, make sure that your route is well-lit and free of obstacles.
• Report any harassing phone calls immediately to your broker or to the police.
• Report exactly what the person said in as much detail as you can.
• Be firm with anyone who maliciously calls you. Tell them to "never call here again."
• If possible, when you leave the office after dark walk in pairs to the parking lot and make sure that both cars start. If one doesn't, its owner can be driven to a safe place.
STAY IN CONTACT
• Even when you're using a regular telephone in your office, keep a fully charged mobile phone with you just in case.
• Program your emergency phone numbers onto your office line or home office line, as well as your mobile phone.
• Have a charger for your cell phone at home as well as at the office so that it is always working.
• Keep a printout of emergency numbers at your desk.
DESPITE YOUR BEST EFFORTS, YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF CONFRONTED WITH A BAD SITUATION.
REMEMBER THAT YOUR SAFETY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING.
• Your first instinct should always be to run. Run towards somewhere with people, like a house or a busy street if you can.
• Do not resist someone trying to rob you. Give them whatever they want.
• Make as much noise as you can, whether it be screaming or using a noisemaker.
• It has been noted that yelling "Fire" is more effective than yelling "Help".
• Phone 9-1-1 as soon as you can and tell them calmly as much detail as you can think of.
• Remember that every bad situation is made worse by panicking. Try to stay calm.