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Seller fraud attempts spiked this year. Here’s what we should all know.

A new scam is targeting buyers, real estate agents and property owners. You’ve probably heard it called seller impersonation, fake seller or vacant lot fraud, but no matter what name you know it by, it’s worth talking about it. Consider these words from one of the industry’s most respected fraud experts, Tom Conkright.    

“Seller impersonation fraud has now grown into the fastest fraud vector that we’re seeing here in 2023 and will likely continue,” Cronkright said in this video. He is the founder of CertifID, which is a service the Wheatland Title Family of Companies utilizes to help keep our customers secure.

What is it?

The easy answer is it’s exactly what it sounds like. Fraudsters who are trying to sell properties they don’t own. These scammers dive into public records, selecting properties that are paid off that would make easy targets (Think vacation homes, vacant lots, ect) These criminals connect with a real estate agent and attempt to push through a sale before anyone realizes they are not the rightful owner. 

Properties are often listed below the market rate to drum up immediate interest, and the scammer is often aiming for an all-cash deal with a quick closing. Here are some other potential red flags to know on this subject.

A seller only makes contact via email or text and doesn’t want to meet in person. Call the “seller” and see if a person picks up or if you get sent to voicemail. You can also request a video call and be sure to be ready to ask property-specific questions that can’t be answered with a simple internet search.

A seller isn’t willing to produce a government ID, or the name on the ID doesn’t match the property information. Be suspicious and use public search tools to your advantage. Reverse phone search the “seller’s” phone number, compare the signatures with previously recorded documents, look for photos of the real owner and more.

A seller wants to use a notary of their choosing. Allowing this is a common way scammers get past some of the verification checks of a normal transaction. It’s okay to investigate a chosen vendor of any kind more closely or flat-out deny the use of one that can’t be vetted. 

Want to know more on this subject? Click here. If you ever suspect you could be dealing with a fraudulent seller, let us know. The Wheatland Title family does everything we can to help you find out the truth. We all must know these scams are out there and do what it takes to keep our customers – and their funds – safe and secure.

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