U.S. Secret Service observes sharp increase in Real Estate Fraud

The U.S. Secret Service has advised about an increase in reports of real estate fraud concerning vacant properties. These schemes involve a criminal that identifies real estate, typically a vacant lot or a rental property, that is usually free of mortgages or other liens. The criminal can obtain detailed property information and the owner’s identity by conducting a search of the public records (i.e., County Recorder’s Office). They will then pose as the owner of the property and attempt to sell the same. They will refuse to sign closing documents in person and request a remote notary signing. The notary is either falsified or the criminal posing as the notary. The falsified closing documents are then provided to the closer and the proceeds are then transferred to the criminal. This scheme is usually discovered when the documents are taken to the recorder’s office or when the true owner has a title search done and discovers this transfer has taken place. By that point, the criminal had already received the net proceeds and disappeared.

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