By Marc Shaw
According to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, real estate wire fraud continues to be one of the most prevalent cyber crimes in the United States. When wire fraud occurs in a real estate transaction, scammers will usually try to trick a home buyer into sending money to them under the guise of a legitimate wire transfer, like one that would be needed to cover closing costs or other expenses.
Of course, wire fraud isn’t the only trick that real estate scammers will try. Seller impersonation scams have been on the rise in recent years. In this type of fraud, a scammer will find a property that has been abandoned or whose owners have been absent for a long period and create fraudulent documents claiming ownership. Then, they will attempt to sell the property to another party before the fraud is revealed. If successful, the new owners could find themselves in the middle of a property ownership dispute that will cost them countless dollars in legal fees and could result in them losing their rights to the property.
When it comes to buying and selling property, title insurance companies like World Wide Land Transfer are on the front lines of combatting seller impersonation fraud. Here’s how title insurance agents prevent real estate buyers from becoming victims:
Any time we originate a new title insurance policy, we conduct hours of public records research to find title defects that could cost a property owner money or call their ownership into question. If the title turns out to be clear, we can issue a policy; if it’s not, we can talk to the buyer, seller, or lender about the options they have to resolve title defects. In the case of a seller who has illegally claimed ownership of a property, it can often be a simple matter to identify fraudulent documents in the chain of title.
Our team will go over any documents in the public record and compare them to the documents being used in your transaction. We may find inconsistencies, like signatures that don’t match, or a seller whose name is different from the owners listed in the public record. In one case, we found that the seller, who claimed to be the executor of a deceased person’s estate, had a different last name than the deceased, lived in a different state, and had a deed that was not prepared by an attorney or title insurance company. As we looked into it further, we discovered this person had been involved in multiple fraudulent real estate transactions in the past and was currently incarcerated in Tennessee. Once we informed the buyer that we would not be able to issue a title insurance policy on this property, they realized just how close they came to becoming victims of an expensive fraud.
Through the work we do every day, title insurance companies can identify all sorts of fraudulent real estate documents and protect homebuyers from being victimized by scammers. We also issue owner’s title insurance policies to protect those buyers for the entire time they own their homes. If you are planning on buying a property shortly, you owe it to yourself to speak to a title insurance agent and obtain an owner’s policy that will cover any financial losses related to fraudulent documents and a range of other title defects. Get in touch with our team if you want to find a good title insurance company in NYC or other communities all across America.
World Wide Land Transfer is a service-oriented PA title company with offices in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. With a record of going above and beyond, we are trusted to close everything from complex commercial transactions to residential refinance and purchase transactions.