Birthright Title takes pride in being the guardians of property ownership rights and the facilitator of your real estate transaction. However, fraud continues to be an issue for all of us in real estate, and the battles against cybercrime and other schemes should remain on our radar during even the most joyous occasions.
We talk about scammers a lot in this space because we must be all in this together. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of frauds for all of us to look out for this season. (We know this isn’t as fun as the naughty or nice list compiled by a certain man in a red suit, but it’s just as important. After all, criminals don’t take holiday vacations.
Wire fraud: An old nemesis of us all. This is the scam real estate professionals have been warning about for years. If cybercriminals get access to an email account of someone involved in the transaction, they can intercept communication, manipulate details and ultimately get buyers or others to transfer funds into the wrong account – diverting the transaction’s funds from where they should go.
To defend against email hacking and phishing, stringent email security measures must be implemented by everyone around the closing table. Multi-factor authentication, encryption, and regular email security audits are essential. Remind customers and colleagues regularly how to recognize the signs of email hacking attempts and verify transaction details independently.
Seller impersonation/Vacant lot fraud: Protecting against phantom properties. We’ll call this fake seller scam the fraud of 2023, though it will continue to be a concern in the years to come. Fraudsters may falsely represent themselves as legitimate property owners or even fabricate the existence of vacant lots. They entice unsuspecting buyers with the promise of a dream property at a below-market price and may demand a quick closing. Trying to use their own notary, only making contact via text or email and pushing for an all-cash sale are other red flags regarding this scam.
To combat fake sellers, Realtors and others, including title professionals, must conduct meticulous due diligence on property listings and sellers. Verifying ownership and property existence is crucial, along with thorough research into the property’s legal status. If you think you could be dealing with a fraudulent seller, alert us.
Moving scams: Be aware of bait and switch tactics and more. Professional, legitimate movers are often worth the investment. However, the keyword there is legitimate. Watch out for bait-and-switch tactics regarding price, simply taking your money but not showing up and more. Protect yourself by checking your local BBB or asking for a recommendation from a friend, your Relator or the Birthright Title team. Honest movers can provide you with an official license number, too.
In conclusion, all of us play an indispensable role in maintaining the integrity of the transaction. We take pride in doing all we can to protect our customers from the ever-evolving threat of fraud, but it has to be a team effort. There is always a Grinch or two out there, waiting for any of us to slip up. Remember, if something seems off, it probably is! Reach out to us anytime.