The rapid shift to online transactions during the pandemic has opened up new avenues for fraudulent activities. According to FloridaRealtors.org, one such alarming trend seen among realtors in Florida is an increase in 'fake sellers'—scammers posing as property owners to dupe unsuspecting buyers. Below, we dive into this type of land fraud, how to spot it and what measures to take to avoid it.
What is Land Fraud?
Land fraud is an illegal scheme in which scammers pose as property owners and attempt to sell properties they don't actually own. This deception can take various forms, from selling non-existent land to selling properties others own. The fraudsters can resort to several strategies to complete their ruse, like forging documents, making excuses for not providing proper identification, or claiming they are out of the country and cannot attend in-person meetings. With digital transactions making fully remote closings more common, these scammers have adapted their tactics to exploit the new opportunities.
How to Avoid Land Fraud
Whether you are concerned over this growing predicament or not, you should always follow the advice below to ensure your transaction goes as smoothly as possible.
- Verify the Identity of the Seller: Check multiple versions of the Seller's ID and validate them independently. Be wary of sellers providing excuses for not showing their ID or those who present suspicious identification.
- Physically Inspect the Property: Never buy a property you have not seen in person. Insist on a physical visit to the property, and be cautious if the seller consistently avoids this.
- Talk to a Professional: If you're suspicious about a potential seller, tell a real estate professional about your concerns. Real estate attorneys or title agents can perform due diligence and help find inconsistencies that may indicate fraud.
- Be Wary of Rushed Transactions: Genuine sellers understand that property transactions take time. Anyone rushing you into making a payment or signing documents may have ulterior motives.
By staying alert and following these guidelines, you can identify and avoid falling victim to land fraud and move into your dream home with peace of mind. Despite the growing complexity of these scams, constant vigilance can go a long way in protecting yourself and your investment.
If you'd like to learn more about these threats and how to combat them, we'd be happy to help. Give us a call at 866-259-4440.