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One of the inconveniences of living in the developing world, and there are many, is that people are more prone to fall for different kinds of scams. Here in Ethiopia one of the biggest scams people fall for over and over is in the real estate business.
I personally know of people who have lost money, and we are talking about thousands and even millions of birr, trying to acquire a house promised to them by local real estate companies. The housing industry is being tarnished by con artists who are literally robbing people blind.
Yet, despite their bad reputation real estate companies continue to flourish. They still promote aggressively and put out enticing advertisements telling people to hurry up and by a house or an apartment as soon as possible. Very few real estate companies feature already built houses and apartments in their advertisements. It is all a 3D image of what is to become a person’s home or working space.
The fact that the real estate business is still going and the fact that new companies are willing to join the play ground shows that there is still money to be made and people to be fooled, especially since a law that should have been there to protect people and to penalize companies has not been enforced.
With all its problems, the business also has exceptions. There some companies now trying to change the way real estate business is being done. Ethical businesses are saying ‘come and buy an already built house’ and they do not ask for a down payment to be used for the construction. With this new way of working, these companies just maybe able to give credibility to the sector.
Living in a developing country may mean that people are introduced to ideas that are new to them but not so for other more developed countries. When we are introduced to new things that seem to be too good to be true, that seem to be a little off or even just things that are new and we don’t know much about, we need to learn to do a bit of research, talk to people and ask the right questions, but we usually don’t.
We all know of the e-mail scam from the guy or lady asking for our cooperation with moving a huge amount of their money from their country, and would be paying us a ridiculous amount of money for our help. This offer seems too good to be true but the amount of money is also exciting.
How about the other kind of e-mail and text? The one telling us we have become the lucky winners of some sort of cash prize? I know some friends who have received these kinds of e-mails or texts and tried to contact the companies back because they thought the whole thing was for real.
The other kind of scam many fall for in Ethiopia would be the one where a group of people completely brain wash people into paying a small fortune to become a part of a sort of cult. Whoever joins the cult is required to bring in more people in order to get gold (yes, gold), it is safe to say in the end nobody really gets any gold.
I always say that it is a good thing that we do not have international financial institutions functioning within Ethiopia because if we did, that means we would be even more vulnerable to damage due from having credit cards at our disposal.
I predict that once international financial institutions make there way into Ethiopia, the next big thing in the scamming world will be identity theft.
It might seem a bit unfair comparing the Ethiopian real estate business to some of the things I mentioned in the above paragraphs. But, what is the difference really? Somebody promises you something, you pay for what is promised but then you never get what you paid for and you never get your money back. If that is not a scam, I don’t know what is.