5 Ways to Spot a Vacant Land Scammer

We’ve noticed a sharp uptick in vacant lot scams over the past year, where criminals pose as property owners and attempt to sell land they don’t own to unsuspecting buyers. This isn’t a new scam, but its recurrence demands our attention. To help you steer clear of these fraudulent property sales, we’ve put together a list of the top 5 red flags that may indicate a seller is not who they claim to be.

Red Flag #1: The “Absentee” Seller

If the seller claims to be out of town or on international travel, proceed with caution. While some genuine sellers might be abroad, this is also a common tactic scammers use to avoid face-to-face interactions and make it difficult for law enforcement to trace them. Always insist on verifying their identity and ownership through official records before moving forward.

Red Flag #2: The “Rush Sale” Technique

Be cautious if the seller is overly eager to close the deal quickly. Scammers often pressure buyers into making hasty decisions to avoid detection. Always take your time and do your due diligence. Remember, a legitimate seller won’t mind waiting a bit for you to verify all the details.

Red Flag #3: The Unrepresented Owner

In legitimate real estate transactions, sellers often employ an agent to handle the complexities. If the property is “for sale by owner” without clear justification, be sure to verify all details independently. One great way to validate ownership is to send a notice not to the lot address, but to the address on file for the tax record. If the real owner is not aware that their property has been listed, they will sound the alarm when they receive this notice.

Red Flag #4: The Fishy Notary Arrangement

Another red flag is when the seller insists on choosing their own notary, especially if they resist using a neutral, third-party notary. This can be a trick to falsify documents without getting caught. We reocommend never letting a Seller arrange their own notary for any documents.

Red Flag #5: The Invisible Seller

Be wary if the supposed property owner avoids voice or video calls. Lack of direct communication is often a ploy to hide their true identity or the fact that they are not the real owner. Any reluctance to engage in voice or video verification should make you doubly cautious.

In conclusion, vacant land scammers are becoming increasingly cunning. While these red flags don’t guarantee that the seller is a fraudster, they should at least prompt you to dig deeper. Conduct thorough background checks, consult professionals, and always meet in person whenever possible to safeguard your investments.

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