Deceptive Alligator Ambush Swamps Land Investors
In a modern twist on the old bait-and-switch fraud of selling swampland in Florida, residents of the Sunshine State are now being scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through deceptive sales of the state’s ample undeveloped land.
Fraudsters carry out their schemes by identifying undeveloped plots through county records, then posing as legitimate owners or title companies to dupe real estate agents and individual buyers.
They are particularly keen on quick sales, often facilitated by bogus wiring instructions that transfer closing funds to accounts they control.
These fraudsters typically avoid giving any justification for their rush to sell.
The escalation in fraudulent land sales and fake documents, especially in Florida counties with a large amount of undeveloped property like Brevard and Osceola, is costing unsuspecting buyers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, according to Orlando Secret Service Special Agent Brian Crowley.
He highlighted the difficulty of detecting these scams since most communication is done through email, which keeps the fraudsters anonymous and makes the scheme profitable.
Wire fraud, a federal crime that involves using electronic communication for criminal activity, is the most common form of real estate scam, according to Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout and Credit.com.
Buyers need to meticulously scrutinize all emails, texts, and phone messages for legitimacy before proceeding with any real estate transaction.
Ways to Protect Yourself from Real Estate Scams
Scammers are well-practiced at presenting themselves as genuine businesspeople, adept at winning trust and pressuring their targets to complete the transaction.
It’s crucial to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism, particularly when a real estate investment appears too favorable to be true.
- Ask about the timing and method of transferring closing funds from the title company.
- Independently verify wiring instructions before sending funds. Scammers typically want you to use their provided wiring instructions and email addresses.
- After funds are transferred, acknowledge delivery and confirm receipt with the correct associate.
- Be wary of any changes to the wiring instructions. Fraudsters often employ the tactic of altering procedures.
- If anything seems suspicious or dishonest, contact the title company or real estate agent in person or, if that’s not possible, via phone. For significant purchases like property, it’s crucial to ensure everything is legitimate.
To steer clear of fraudsters seeking to exploit you through fraudulent wiring and impersonation, apply common sense, keep a close watch on your identity, and do your research.
Educating yourself, collaborating with professional realtors, and conducting thorough due diligence throughout the buying process are also crucial, as Crowley noted.