YOU will have seen the adverts online and in newspapers. “We buy any house fast for cash. Official. Enter your postcode for a cash offer. No Fees To Pay”.

All of the adverts use a similar pitch – the promise of a quick sale. “Sell your house fast. No Legal Fees or Hidden Charges. Family Business. Top Rated Service. Top Offers. 100% No Fees. Cash in Bank in 24 Hours”.

The truth is you won’t get a top offer. You won’t even get an average one. Worse, you might end up only getting part of the agreed sale price. For the quick-buy market is the Wild West in Scotland. It’s unregulated across the UK and is literally a free for all. It’s a place where exploitation is writ large and fraud festers like a simmering sore.

This week I am drafting a court action to try and legally dissolve one of these quick sales on the grounds of fraud – known as an action for production and reduction – and thought it might be useful to shine a light on this murky area of “business”.

What’s in it for the purchaser? Targeting homeowners who are financially distressed in order to buy their home at a rock bottom price. Some homeowners feel they need to sell because a loved one has become terminally ill, there has been a life crisis, or the household is in serious financial distress. Elderly homeowners may be duped into a sale with the promise of being able to remain in the property.

Most of the people I‘ve met who have been down this road believed their backs were to the wall and there were no other options. The reality is they’re always much better solutions. If you can’t afford your mortgage because of a life changing event you might be able to use the Scottish Government’s Mortgage to Rent scheme.

There may be scope for a payment break from your lender.

A free money advisor may be able to reschedule your other debts so you can keep your home.

In a worse case scenario your lender might provide an assisted voluntary sale.

A good rule in life is if anyone ever tries to sell you something that’s too good to be true, it isn’t true.

Get free, independent advice from a money advice agency, law centre or CABx before you commit.

Be very wary of anyone offering you a sale and lease back. I’ve met so many people who were told “I will buy your home and you can have a lease and remain there for life paying rent”. Although the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates these schemes, many purchasers who offer them are bandits who operate unlawfully. In Scotland, there is no such thing as a private residential tenancy (PRT) for life.

In terms of the 2016 Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) there are umpteen grounds a landlord could evict a tenant on – including simply choosing to sell, refurbish, or have a family member live in the property. There is no security of tenure in the private rented sector.

And then there are the out and out fraudsters. Here’s how it works. People pose as financial advisors. To be an independent financial advisor a person has to meet certain educational and professional standards regulated by the FCA and accredited bodies. They need to be approved by the FCA and on its Financial Services Register:

A bogus financial advisor gains your trust when you are in a desperate place in your life.

He explains they can introduce you to a great business that will buy your home for top dollar. You can stay there as a tenant for as long as you want. It sounds so good. You get the cash value of your home, and can remain there on a reasonable rent. It’s the salvation you believed was impossible. A weight is about to be lifted off your shoulders and that of your loved ones.

Pinch yourself. It’s a nasty scam. The “financial advisor” isn’t a financial advisor, and the great business is him, his wife and pals.

They will buy your house for two thirds of its value and then run a mortgage scam on a bank putting the true market value as a fake purchase price, as they borrow against the property. You will get a few grand and never see the rest of the money.

In 2017, this is precisely what happened in a High Court case where the fraudsters got the best part of 12 years’ prison time.

For me, the Scottish Government should use its devolved powers to target and regulate this market in Scotland. Vulnerable people across the country are losing huge sums of money that they have worked all of their lives to accumulate.