Q: My friend is trying to buy a house from a man who says that he owns a HUD house. He wants $80,000 for the property, with $500 down. The house looks like it should sell for $100,000 or more.

He asked my friend to fax a copy of his ID and social security card to his office. I just don’t believe this is real because it’s too good to be true. Who can my friend contact to see if this house is for sale without being scammed?

A: This deal has scam written all over it. First, HUD homes are regular houses with FHA loans on them that have gone into foreclosure. HUD sells HUD homes online and HUD-certified real estate agents can make offers for buyers online.

Can you see what’s wrong with the situation your friend is facing? And, I probably don’t need to tell you that you’d never have to fax any legitimate real estate agent your contact information or Social Security information – that’s just asking to have your identity stolen.

Your friend needs the help of a really smart real estate agent who is HUD-certified and probably the assistance of a real estate attorney. Is the person offering the home to your friend a HUD-certified real estate agent? The agent can look up the property and tell you if it is for sale or not and show your friend some other properties in the area that are a good deal at the same time.

The attorney can do all of the due diligence necessary to make sure this deal of a lifetime isn’t really a scam, and can also help put together the documents your friend will need to get a loan and close.

Just remember, if it doesn’t smell right to you at this point, it probably isn’t right for you. Good luck to your friend.