Real estate fraudsters are impersonating popular real estate agents online and then asking their colleagues to purchase gift cards on their behalf.

In an official report issued on Wednesday, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Carol Rutledge said that the state has seen a new wave of scammers going after real estate agents. To gain the trust of other agents, fraudsters have been seeking out the names of popular agents and real estate brokerages online and impersonating them.

Through emails and texts, the scammers will reach out to colleagues listed on the site with requests to purchase gift cards worth hundreds of dollars — some have even gone so far as to say that they were “closing gifts for clients” that would be paid back by the brokerage. The state has also seen scammers target agents and homebuyers with emails telling them that their payment method has suddenly changed.

“As we become more aware of possible scams, these bad actors are upping their game and using the people we know and trust to get to our money,” Rutledge said in the report. “They use familiar names and have believable requests, but when it comes to your money always use an abundance of caution, pick up the phone and call directly.”

According to Rutledge, agents are particularly vulnerable to scams since their name and contact information needs to be prominent online. She advised agents to verify any online requests in person. Brokerages and managers, meanwhile, could consider issuing a company-wide policy for expenses through specific forms and credit cards so that employees can sense that something is amiss when scammers strike.

Carl Carter, the son of Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2014 after showing a home to a man who she believed was a prospective buyer, told Inman that he heard from agents targeted by similar scams all over the country. One of them transferred over $800 in what she thought was an “urgent closing gift” request from her broker before realized that it was a scam.

“Agents that receive requests similar to this should immediately call their broker to confirm the request,” he said. “Although part of the scam is the broker being ‘stuck in a meeting,’ agents should verbally confirm the request before purchasing any gift cards or transferring funds.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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