In my state, and I assume in other parts of the country, people pretending to be licensed real estate agents when they are not is an increasing problem.
You are riding around looking to buy a house. You see a sign in front of a house for sale. You call the number. The person on the other end of the phone is either the owner or a licensed real estate agent or a scammer. Who else could it be? If they own the house, that is OK. If they are a licensed agent hired by the seller, that is ok. If they are someone else what are they up to? Ask them if they are the owner. If not, ask them if they are a licensed agent. If they say yes, ask to see their license. If they offer you a business card, ask to see their state issued real estate license. There is no legitimate licensee that would object to showing you their license. In fact, most agents, including me, would be proud to show a license. The only person that would not want to show you a license would be someone that does not have one. If they do object or refuse, be suspicious.
If they do not own the house and they do not have a real estate license, where do they fit in the transaction? It would seem to me they must be up to some sort of scam. Why not ask them”, where do you fit in this transaction?” That seems like a reasonable question to me. They might tell you they are handling this for a friend or relative. If that is true, you may want to ask if you can talk directly to the owner. If I were handling this for a friend or relative, I certainly would not object if someone wanted to talk directly to the owner. Would you? Of course they could tell you” I have an option to buy this house for fifty thousand from the ignorant,naive person that owns it and I am hoping to sell it to you for one hundred and twenty thousand. All I have to do is defraud the mortgage company into believing it is only worth fifty thousand and convince you it is worth one hundred and twenty thousand. Maybe the real owner will get sued for a deficiency judgement for several thousand dollars. That is too bad. This is a great deal for me.”
Licenced real estate agents have what is known as fiduciary duties. They are required by law to be honest. There are very serious consequences for dishonesty. They could have their license revoked if they are dishonest. If you meet one that does not want to show you their license, maybe they used to have a license but they do not anymore. People with criminal background can not get a real estate license.
One of the reasons that the state issues real estate licenses is so people with criminal backgrounds can not practice selling real estate. Another reason you might want to ask to see someones’ license is so you will know you have their right name. Crooks use aliases. Be cautious. Honest legitimate people do not mind at all. When dealing with a real estate agent, ask “May I please see your license?”