California Real Estate Market Leads to Elder Scams
The real estate market in California is red hot. Older people who bought their homes decades ago may now have property worth many times what they originally paid for it. Some homes in highly sought-after areas that were bought many years ago for less than $100,000 could now be worth millions. Unfortunately, this richly-priced real estate has attracted scammers who try to buy properties from seniors for far less than what the properties are worth.
Why Scammers Target Older People
Every year, older Americans lose more than $36 billion dollars to con artists. Scammers target seniors because they hope older people will be more trusting, as well as to take advantage of any cognitive limitations the elder might have.
When it comes to real estate scams, the con artists are looking for victims who are not aware of how much their property is worth now. Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) did some investigative reporting to find out more about the problem.
How Real Estate Con Artists Find Their Victims
JPR found that scammers use several methods to find elderly property owners in California:
- They look at publicly available property records. If the assessed value of a property is low, the scammers know that the owners are likely to be elderly.
- They may target specific elderly people directly by pretending to befriend them in places where seniors feel safe, such as at church.
- They may go door-to-door looking for victims.
- Sometimes the con artists are actually relatives of their victims.
An $800 Offer for Land Worth $50,000
The JPR report uncovered scams where owners were offered far less than their property was worth:
- A couple aged 89 and 84 were offered $800 for their one-acre plot of land in San Diego worth an estimated $50,000. They suspect they were targeted because they’ve owned the land since 1979.
- A 70-year-old woman who owned a house in the tech-industry heart of Sunnyvale that was worth more than $1.5 million received an offer in the mail to buy her house for $750,000. The offer came complete with paperwork, all ready for a signature.
What You Can Do
If you are a senior or have a loved one who is a senior with property in California, learn more about financial scams targeting older people. Don’t accept any unsolicited offers to buy your home or your loved one’s home without talking to a trustworthy real estate agent, financial planner or lawyer. The elder abuse lawyers at Garcia & Artigliere can help if you suspect a loved one has been taken advantage of or you’ve personally been the victim of a scam. Call us at (800) 281-8515 for a free consultation.