If you are planning to purchase a home in the near future, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance wants to make you aware of a scam.

TDIC wants to warn potential homebuyers about "cloud companies," which are fake online real-estate websites that advertise available properties.

The properties may be real, but the companies selling them are not.

TDIC says scammers are creating duplicates of real websites and are advertising properties they do not have permission to sell.

"Some unscrupulous individuals even steal licensees’ identities in order to portray themselves as a licensed agent, when in fact they are not," a TDIC spokesperson said.

Scammers will even accept a down payment for the property then leave the buyer empty-handed.

There is a second version of this scam where a cloud-based company offers to purchase, property, resell timeshares or offer renters services. These fake companies usually ask for money that's explained by them as an inspection fee, escrow fee or commission before services are rendered.

“Saving money for a home can take years, but scammers can grab it all in just a few clicks of a mouse,” TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said. “We urge consumers to always ask questions about the deals they see on the Internet. Be wary of paying fees for property you have not seen in person or before verifying that the agent you’ve contacted is legitimate.”

Here are some tips from TDIC to avoid becoming a victim of a scam:

  • Check verify.tn.gov to ensure both the company and the individual agent are properly licensed with the Tennessee Real Estate Commission.
  • Confirm the city of both the company and the agent at verify.tn.gov. If the locations do not match, call or email the Real Estate Commission at 615-741-2273 or trec.info@tn.gov to verify what firm the agent is associated with.
  • Proceed with caution if the company is asking for money up front. Never give money to someone you don’t know or have any information about other than how they portray themselves on the Internet.
  • Be sure to confirm the company’s exact location before proceeding with business negotiations. Pay special attention to the suite number or floor they are located on. Many fraudulent companies list well-known business addresses but are not actually associated with the building.
  • If you are wary about the location listed, search for the address on the Internet. Look for a street view of the location to confirm that business name is on the sign or building address matches the one provided. If you’re still in doubt, visit the company.
  • If you have been the victim of a scam, visit tn.gov/commerce to file a complaint.

TDIC encourages anyone who has been a victim of a scam to file a complaint on their website.