4 Indicators of an Escrow Scam

Escrow scam is a ploy that involves a scam artist setting up a fake escrow company and ripping off the customers. This deception has been around in some form of another for as long as escrow companies existed. Nonetheless, with the advent of the Internet, the escrow scams prolifirated like never before. The Internet makes it easy to create a fake company, and it allows con artists to reach millions of potential victims without much effort. You can avoid becoming a victim of an escrow scam if you watch out for the indicators below.

1. Sloppy Content

In many cases, the con artists will imitate the websites of the legitimate escrow companies to make their scam look legitimate. This can involve copying company logos, legal disclaimers and even entire web pages. However, such copying can be rather sloppy. For example, a copied legal disclaimer may feature the company's original name, the copied web pages may contain broken links, etc. If they copy the website's coding, they may wind up creating websites with oddly spaced paragraphs, coding instead of images, and otherwise broken layouts.

The less obvious errors should also be a tip-off. In many cases, scam artists don't bother to proofread their websites, leaving spelling and grammatical errors. Alternately, they may use the words incorrectly.  For example, they may use "there" instead of "their", "than" instead of "then," etc.

2. Unresponsive Customer Service

Legitimate escrow companies will have customer service workers that will be able to respond to you directly during working hours. You might get put on hold for a while, but sooner or later the customer service will get to you. Con artists, on the other hand, don't always have the resources to pull this off. If you call their customer service number you will wind up getting an answering machine. In some cases, you may not get anything at all. Either way, this is a clear sign that you're dealing with a scam.

3. Dubious Payment Methods

When a legitimate escrow company takes your money, it will ask you to wire the money to its bank and give you the approporiate routing information. The scam artists will want to avoid that. Putting money in the bank leaves a paper trail, and many of them have criminal history that prevents them from getting corporate bank accounts anyway. Instead, the scam artist will ask you to send the money to a person, claiming that it's the company employer or some sort of trusted intermediary. Alternatively, the scam artists may ask you to send the money through Western Union of MoneyGram, hoping that you wouldn't realize that both companies only send money from person to person.

In short, if the escrow company asks you to send a money anywhere but a real, verifiable bank, you are dealing with a scam.

4. Lack of Online Presence

If you look up a name of a legitimate escrow company on any search engine you will find many results. If you look up fake companies, on the other hand, you may not get any results other than the fake website and online advertisements. Generally speaking, the less results the search generates, the more likely it is to be an escrow scam.

Finding Legitimate Escrow Companies

The best way to find out if an escrow company is legitimate is to look it up with your state's Attorney General's office. It is responsible for issuing licenses to all state businesses, including escrow companies. If the office has no record of the license, or if the details of the license don't correspond to the information the escrow company gave you, you are dealing with a scam.

If you want faster results, you can also look up the company's name at the Better Business Bureau. If the BBB has no record, or if that record is negative, you are dealing with a scam.

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