One truly sad fact about the electronic age…anyone can fall prey to a scam. As much as we constantly hear, “Don’t give out your account information, the bank will never ask for this information over the telephone, keep your passwords safe, etc.”, people fall into the trap every day. Thieves keep getting more and more sophisticated. I have had several clients who were in the process of selling a car when a great buyer appears (never in person), offers to put down a deposit and then needs the bank account to do so. Of course, they think. If someone is going to make a deposit, they need my bank account number. I often have given my account number for someone making a deposit, but if you don’t know this person, don’t do it. They can give you a cashier’s check. Sometimes they even call you with an “agent” from the bank to show that it is legitimate. This often happens after bank hours so that you won’t know you are getting scammed immediately. First of all, bank agents NEVER call you by phone to confirm your information and have you ever known a bank employee to work after hours (sorry to my banking friends)? But yet, it is amazing the amount of information strangers can already know about you. Remember that your name and identification as well as date of birth can be found publically in the registry. This is not private information. So don’t be convinced if they know it.
Second clue…they call on Friday afternoon and want to make a deposit right away to move in over the weekend. Again, if they haven’t come in person to see the rental, home for sale, or car, but yet, they want to put down a deposit. STOP. No one buys or rents a home without seeing it first, unless they are working with an agent who has been designated to find something very specific and this agent knows them personally.
I once had someone call and insist on moving in right away to an expensive rental without seeing it and they wanted to do it on Sunday and sign all of the paperwork on Monday. Nope. I told them they had to see it first and we would do the paperwork and have the deposit made before they moved in. He was going to call me back. Thinking maybe I was being too cautious, I saved the name and number in my phone in case they called back. About 2 weeks later, the same number popped up but asking about a different rental. When I asked the guy his name, he responded with a different name than was registered and when I told “Alfonso” that it was interesting, because he was “Eduardo” the last time, he hung up and has never called back.
We once had a buyer from “France” who even sent a photo of his family and started by giving lots and lots of details about why he wanted to purchase a specific home, but wanted to put down the money without seeing it and then move in later. Again, he asked for a bank account. The owner was desperate and wanted to believe this was all on the up and up and was actually angry with me for doubting this incredible buyer. So, I told him we could set up an Escrow account with Stewart Title so he could make all of the financial arrangements through them and his money would be protected. Never heard from him again. Later we heard that someone out of Manuel Antonio had been scamming homeowners in this way and they were trying to capture him.
What happens? These thieves convince you to confirm or give them certain information, then they quickly transfer money right out of your account. You can be left with nothing and since you gave them the information, the bank is not held responsible.
Point….you cannot be too careful. Don’t get overly anxious to make a deal and trust too quickly. If someone really wants something, they will do it the right way. These scammers have a way of making us all feel so stupid. We know that we should have been smarter. But they are really good and they get better every day. They find information that no one should have access to, but they do. Always stop and think, get a number to call someone back, ask for payments in an official, non-digital way at least until you can confirm that this person is legitimate. And NEVER EVER give your information over the phone or internet especially if someone calls claiming to be from the bank.
Tina Newton is a Realtor and part owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Atenas, Costa Rica. She is always glad to answer any questions about living in Costa Rica, travelling abroad, or housing options. You can contact her directly by email as well as through the website, or Facebook.