The "Florida Board of Realtors," which never existed, seems to have been taken over by another made-up organization: The "Florida Real Estate Board." Scammers appear to use both names now based on the mail Realtors in Florida continue to receive.
It's not clear why scammers dropped the word "Realtor" from their fake title in mailings – it still appears on their legitimate-looking website – but it could relate to copyright law. A scam often breaks several national and state laws. Since the National Association of Realtors® vigorously defends its Realtor® trademark, the scammers may have dropped it from mailings for that reason.
Have you been scammed? Florida Realtors partnered with the Broward County Sheriff's Office and wants to hear from you. Email us at: email@example.com or call (407) 438-1400, extension 2434.
"It's not a simple scam," says Bill Martin, Florida Realtors CEO. "High-tech criminals put a great deal of work and planning into this."
The form comes with a threat: "Failure to respond with your 2017 Agent Board Listing may lead to closure of board listing. Response required to be included in the Agency listing." The "Make check payable to:" address appears to be a post office in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
The website not only seems legitimate, it's very professional. However, most of the links don't work. Blogs in their "archive" appear to stretch back a few years, for example, but no content comes up when you click. The same is true for many other links.
"For now, members should ignore these demand letters, and we ask brokers and agents to spread this message to everyone working in the Florida real estate industry," says Margy Grant, general counsel for Florida Realtors.
"Our big fear is that this scam is working – that some members haven't gotten the message and are sending money to criminals," Grant adds. "The reason some scams keep coming back, even if slightly reinvented, is that they work. These guys won't keep paying money to print and mail letters if it's not profitable.
"As an industry, it's in our best interest to make sure everyone knows about this scam and ignores it. Only then will this scam go away forever."