Protecting Yourself from Seller Impersonation Fraud

two people are exchanging money in front of a laptop

In the world of real estate, seller impersonation fraud is on the rise. Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods, impersonating property owners to manipulate real estate agents and try to illegally sell properties. This can often happen when they pose as the owner using their personal information, including Social Security and driver’s license details, and conceal their identities through email and text.

You can rely on Lakeside Title Company as a trusted agency. We have the expertise to help you avoid seller impersonation, and we use the latest title and closing technology to provide clients with the safest and most secure transactions.

Spotting Red Flags

With various threats in today’s real estate market, it’s crucial to stay aware of possible fraudulent activity. We’ve put together a list of some red flags to help you identify suspicious signs during a real estate transaction.

Red Flags Associated with the Property

Non-Owner Occupied Property: We suggest keeping a closer eye on non-owner occupied properties like investment, vacation, and rental properties. They can be an easier target for fraudsters because they may be vacant or unoccupied at the time of the real estate transaction.

Address Discrepancy: If the address of a property doesn’t match the owner’s stated address, take a closer look and question why there’s a discrepancy between the two addresses.

Low Cost, No Mortgage: Raise your eyebrows if you find a property offered significantly below market value without any outstanding mortgages or liens attached.

Red Flags Associated with the Seller

Eager for a Quick Sale: Be weary of sellers who push for a quick sale and don’t try to negotiate fees when asked. This may mean they want to get this process done as soon as possible so that you don’t grow suspicious of them throughout a lengthy process.

Unsecured Payment Methods: One of the biggest red flags in real estate transactions is a seller who insists on exclusively dealing with cash buyers or demands that funds be wired instead of using more secure payment methods.

MIA: A seller who is “missing in action” should raise some questions. If they are refusing or making excuses as to why they can’t be at meetings and signings in person, or they refuse to communicate via phone call or video call, this is a sign they may not be who they say they are.

Protecting Yourself and Your Clients

Take necessary steps to ensure the seller’s identity and authenticity. Reach out to them directly. It’s also a good idea to choose a vetted and approved online notary like Lakeside Title Company and verify the identity of a seller. Make sure you have control over the disbursement of funds during the entire process. Use a wire verification service or double-check that the wire instructions match the account details in the seller’s authorization form.

If you identify true fraudulent activity, reporting it to a local or state law enforcement agency is always a good idea. No matter what, alert your title insurance underwriter of fraud attempts. At Lakeside Title Company, we take these reports very seriously and always have your back when fighting against fraudulent activity.

Choose Lakeside Title Company

At Lakeside Title Company, we support real estate agents and their clients throughout the buying process. With over 26 years of experience and multiple locations throughout Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, our dedicated professionals are always available to support our partners from start to finish. Don’t worry; Lakeside Title Company is here to protect you and your clients. As a trusted title insurance partner, we provide information, guidance, assistance, and peace of mind so you have a safe home buying process. Visit our site to learn more about safe and secure real estate transactions!

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