Even after so many years as a private detective, I am still amazed by the cunning of scammers and the naivety of many people. I understand that people are focused on their jobs and their lives and that they cannot devote time to learning how to detect fraud and avoid its harmful effects and that is why I hope these articles will help readers identify fraud or at least to feel the need to check before they trust. To confirm the importance of my advice, just remember that according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the year 2015 they received a total of 3,083,379 complaints of fraud, scams, and identity theft in the United States.


A call came from a humble family, “Detective, we have a problem and we need your help,” The person on the phone continued, “Before the economic depression we bought a house and we kept making the payments until we lost the house due to the lack of work and the high monthly mortgage. For about a year, we have been looking to buy a house again because we are a little more economically stable, but they did not give us loans because when we lost the house our credit was ruined. When we looked for the loan in different financial institutions, someone recommended Elena [name has been changed], a real estate agent who helped the families to get loans and also to find damaged houses, but at a very good price. We called Elena and she came to our house, she explained that her company had already helped many families to get loans and buy houses at better prices. The way she got the loans was by paying good lawyers for complicated procedures and through gifts to contacts she had in financial institutions that helped her clients.
To begin with the process, she requested a series of documents such as driver’s licenses, social security card, birth certificates, last IRS tax reports, and copy of the checks we received from our jobs, we also gave you $15,000 in cash. Two weeks later, she brought us some documents to sign and we gave her $7,000 more. It has already been 7 months, we’ve paid $36,000 and she has not shown us the house that she supposedly already has for us. Now we are being asked $11,000 more to complete the process and we can receive the house. We want to investigate if the house really exists and if Elena is being honest with us. Do you think she is scamming us? “


“It’s too early for me to come to a conclusion like that, but yes, this story sounds like fraud,” I replied to my client. We signed the agreement to begin the investigation. Afterward, I began to ask my client for some information about Elena to identify her and her company. I was amazed to discover that the only information that my clients had was the name of the real estate agent (Elena) without the last name, her cell phone number, a fax number, and the name and address of the company place never visited by the clients. They did not even have a copy of a signed contract, nor a business card from Elena. Unbelievable but true.


With the little data we had, we began to investigate. The fax was virtual, the office address was from another company not related to Elena and the cell phone number was pre-paid and was not registered in anyone’s name. But we did the best we could to connect the pieces of this puzzle and found Elena’s identity, address, date of birth, and multiple civil cases for fraud, illegal work without a real estate license, identity theft, application by credit cards on behalf of other people, among other lawsuits for debts. Elena did not even have a home of her own as she had told my clients but lived in a rented apartment. Elena had not, and had never had a real estate license, had no business of her own, but she had worked for a real estate agency years ago that was suspended for tax fraud.
When I gave the results to my client, the husband became very angry and the wife burst into tears. They had believed in Elena’s many lies and did not decide to verify it until it was too late. I suggested that they bring the complaint to the prosecution so that justice so Elena can be brought to the court and to stopping her from scamming humble families, I also advised them to hire an identity protection service to prevent Elena from using their identities to commit fraud. They did not respond, their emotions were crushed, I never knew if they filed a police report or if they let themselves be carried away by the pain of being deceived and then decided to bury this matter. If they had hired me or if they had checked thoroughly before trusting Elena they would have saved their $36,000 and 7 months of false hope.
For your own safety, and I will never stop to give this advice: “Check out people before you trust them”. Do not feel bad or embarrassed to ask for business cards and licenses from the professionals you hire, a good professional will not refuse such a request. Visit them at their office, get a copy of each document you sign, find second opinions, and at least check the reputation of that professional or company on the internet. Although your verification is basic, it will be much better than doing nothing at all.
Beware of fraud, but if you need help, call us at 866-224-1245.
August 28th, 2016
By Private Detective Fernando Alvarez


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