Keep your eye out for seller fraud scams this season

On top of the many challenges – and opportunities – 2023 has presented us, there’s a scam happening across the country that needs to be on all of our radars. We’re talking about seller impersonation scams – sometimes called vacant lot fraud because these fake sellers often target vacant lots, vacation homes, non-occupied ranch land, rental properties and more.

American Land Title Association CEO Diane Tomb recently encouraged all title professionals to keep talking about these scams, so that’s exactly what the Charter Title team, who are proud ALTA members, are doing now. Here are some potential signs of this kind of fraud – and information on how to tackle the issue.

A seller wants a quick sale and is willing to take a lower, all-cash option to make it happen. Especially be wary if the people involved become more anxious and demanding as the process continues. While we all want to deliver for our customers, don’t promise to cut corners to make the process faster.

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.
One more tip: Talk to your previous clients (homeowners and other property owners about this scam, too, and encourage them to set up a Google Alert for their address(es). It seems like a simple step, but on the off chance they’re targeted, they’ll know if their property gets listed.

The entire Charter Title team prides itself in solving any issues you have before and during your transaction with us. That includes doing everything we can to protect our customers and their clients. Reach out to us anytime with questions about bad actors – or anything else about the closing process. It’s why we’re Nebraska’s trusted group of title professionals for so many of you!