Is it a scam? What REALTORS® need to know about fraud

“Dear REALTOR®, you have received a pre-qualified buyer lead from REALTOR.ca paid lead generation program.”

You may be tempted to click for more information.

Stop!

This is an example of a very real scam that has targeted members of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

When you click through, you are asked to pay $15 to see all the details of the lead. These emails and text messages appear to be legitimate but upon further inspection the cracks show.

The most important thing to remember is we will never ask you to pay for your leads, they are always available to you free of charge as a benefit of your membership.

We take complaints about the misuse of listing content seriously.

Fraudulent lead emails and text messages are just one example of scams in the real estate industry. In other cases, listings are copied from REALTOR.ca and used for fraudulent ads on other websites. Listing content involves several layers of copyright and we take steps to protect it, such as:

  1. We use sophisticated software to prevent listing content from being scraped from REALTOR.ca. This software prevents programs from accessing REALTOR.ca and downloading listing content in bulk. However, there is no software to prevent people from manually copying individual listings.
  2. We depend on our members to notify us of any unauthorized use of listing content they may see. In these cases, our legal department will investigate to determine the source of the original listing content and then take the necessary steps to have the fraudulent ad removed.  
  3. If the listing content used in a fraudulent ad comes from a board or association’s IDX feed or a member’s website that is not populated using REALTOR.ca DDF®, our legal department provides a template cease and desist notice for the board, association or member. We also recommend the listing brokerage report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

While we continue to take steps to help mitigate and investigate different fraudulent activities, unfortunately, fraudulent emails remain rampant in many industries, such as telecom, banking and real estate. As always, we advise that you be vigilant when clicking on links.

How to avoid being scammed:

  • Delete unsolicited emails.
  • Remember, we don’t charge for leads. Don’t click on an email or text link asking you to pay for a lead.
  • Hover over a link to confirm its legitimacy before you click to see where the email is coming from.
  • Do not open attachments from an account you don’t know.

If you have received a scam email or text, please contact Member Support at support@crea.ca. If you did pay for a REALTOR.ca lead, we recommend you file a complaint directly with PayPal.

Our legal department will continue to investigate next steps to ensure our members are protected.

Do you have tips for spotting an email scam? Share them in the Comments section.

Sarah Doktor brings her experience as a small-town journalist and national online editor to the Canadian Real Estate Association as a Communications Advisor. Sarah helps facilitate conversations between CREA and our members, boards, associations and the public via our online communities. She also helps coordinate the content presented to you here on the CREA Café. In her spare time, Sarah can be found at the gym, running on a trail or watching Netflix with her cat, Libby.


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