Not getting paid? Experiencing scammers?

With the slowdown in the real estate industry (no refinances, few buys or sells) out come the weak, phony, unscrupulous signing services that don’t pay. Y’all write about them frequently and ask for ideas on how to collect your hard-earned fees, now overdue by months.

Here’s one way to do it: when you realize you’re probably not gonna get paid, contact the title company involved in the transaction in writing and let them know you haven’t been paid and your prospects for collecting your fee are dim. Provide some details, but don’t tell long stories. Be clear, concise and to the point; don’t whine or complain. Just the facts. Close your letter by enlisting their help. Then follow up with a phone call to the addressee and work out a plan with them to chase your fee down. Title wants you to be paid.

Send copies of your correspondence to the lender and escrow company involved as well. And, of course, send a copy to the address of the signing service if you have it, indicating this is your final demand for payment. Send copies to the BBB if you have one in your area and send a copy to the Consumer Affairs Division in your state. Oh, and be sure your claim is justified. If you’ve made errors, late in returning the package, etc., your claim will be diminished and it’ll be all the harder to collect.

Keep this practice in mind: banks set aside “reserves” for bad debt and so do restaurants, dry cleaners and all sorts of businesses. You should, too. Nobody collects on every sale they make - some just go bad. You’ll undoubtedly experience a no-pay situation now and again and you’ll probably need to let it go as a bad debt. It happens. Do your best to collect and move on.

Scammers next. Advice: 1) never pay for leads. Never. 2) If you can’t find the signing service, attorney, whoever on the internet, it’s a scammer. 3) If you’ve taken the job but haven’t done it yet, take a minute to backtrack the issuer and if you can’t locate them (using callbacks, tracing to the title company, etc.), just don’t do the job. Don’t worry about incurring a poor rating from an entity that doesn’t exist or is a scammer.

Remember, these are con men and women!!! This is what they DO. And, they’re good at it. Better than you figuring out who they are. Way better. I know, I used to chase these people in a prior career and even I got scammed more than once. Even ME! And I certainly knew better.

Just like any good businessperson, take the time to establish a relationship with the companies you like the most. Send them a letter or call and tell them how much you appreciate their patronage and that you’ll always do your best for them on the assignments they give you. Now is a good time to do this, while things are slow and you have the time. Come to think of it, I’m gonna do just that starting next week. It’s time for me to thank the good signing services I’ve worked with for all the orders they sent me over the last 18 months.