Buying or Renting Property Online: Your guide to safe and secured acquisition

Jane Odulio

The Internet has provided us convenience in many ways possible. It saves us time, money, and energy of physically going to a place in order to receive a product or service. Gone are the days when we have to skip work to go to a bank and be in a long queue to perform transactions. With a click of a button, we can pay our bills, book a flight, transfer money, or shop wherever there is an Internet connection.

The Internet is a gift to humanity. But it also poses serious threats regarding safety and security. The Internet Crime Complaint Center received 289,874 complaints in 2012, with total loss amounted to US$525,441,110. This figure only came from one agency and most of the complainants came from the United States. In United Kingdom, RSA’s Anti-Fraid Comman Centre said consumer and businesses lost an estimated £27 billion to cybercrime.

There are about 7.1 billion people in the world, 61% of them are Internet users.  Those 61% are at risk to become possible victims of Internet fraud. Though there are several efforts to stop cybercrime, these are not enough measures for us to be secured. The government and agencies can only do so much. Thus, we owe it to ourselves to be watchful and careful on our online transactions.

There are no solid foolproof rules in purchasing or renting online, but there are several ways you can be protected. Check out this list:

1. Do not underestimate scammers. There are lots of professional scammers around the world and they are hackers who have the best technology and skills. They are all after your money so always be on guard.

2. Use safe browsers. If you are using Google Chrome, always be in Incognito mode. Incognito doesn’t remember passwords and doesn’t store your confidential information. Use this especially during online banking and credit card transactions.

3. Beware of phishing emails. These are emails sent by fraudsters who want to get your information, username, or password by getting you to a link provided in their emails. Make sure the email comes from a valid email address and put it into the spam folder or block it when it looks suspicious.

4. Secure your connection. Make sure your home WiFi is protected with a strong password that cannot be hacked. Encrypt and secure your wireless network to protect against eavesdroppers and freeloaders.

5. Be wary of upfront requests for payments. DO NOT send money to any agent saying that you need to send the money right away to secure the property. Never send money to anyone unless the advertiser is genuine. You can contact the company directly if you are in doubt.

6. Be skeptical if the price of the property is too low. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. If an agent is giving you a price below the market value, always investigate. Of course, be prepared to hear some stories like—the owner is moving abroad, the property needs to be sold as soon as possible. If you think it’s a great deal, think again seven times. Chances are you won’t really get the deal and they will only get upfront costs from you.

7. See the property before paying any money. Always request for viewing before paying any costs related to buying the property. In other cases (like buying a property abroad), get a licensed broker or an independent lawyer who will transact business for you.

8. Mind the paperwork. Living in today’s world where everything is instant doesn’t excuse us from not paying attention to little things, especially when dealing with big purchases. Always check if the property has security and safety certificates and licenses. When renting, be sure to have Tenancy Contract and secure copies of necessary documents before you move in.

9. Deal only with reliable brokers and advertisers. Always deal with companies who have a great reputation in real estate business. Don’t be fooled with flashy and slick marketing other offers. Ask professional help and opinion when in doubt. Don’t haste in making decisions you will soon regret.

10. Lastly, know what you want and set a budget. There are lots of choices out there and most of us get carried away and forget our goals as soon as someone impose something on us. Marketers, agents, and brokers will do anything to persuade you and close a deal. Do a lot of research and have your checklist before dealing with them.