Real estate scams are more and more popular, even though we can not see them yet. Comparing to robbing a bank, stealing $ 200,000-worth property via a false deed or an identity theft is trivial – and remarkably safe for the thieves. Their imagination is remarkable and oftentimes we can not do much more than minimizing the damage they inflict. By becoming aware of the most common real estate scams, you may be able to protect yourself or someone you know.
False Deeds, Part 1
Most real estate frauds revolve around forged deeds. The most popular scam is using a false deed in order to get a loan secured against a property. The thief then vanishes with all the money, leaving the real owner in danger of foreclosure by the bank – oftentimes the danger is real if the owner does not react on the first warnings received from the bank.
False Deeds, Part 2
Another common real estate fraud is selling a property without the owners consent. The uninhabited, recently inherited and otherwise unguarded property is the most probable target for such scams. The most inventive thieves are able to even sell the same property to several buyers at the same time. However, if they have sold it only to a single buyer, the fraud can go unnoticed for months or even a year. By that time, the "owner" is long gone, usually in another state, selling another home to someone else.
The false deeds are bad enough, as such scams usually hit at random and they often can be reversed after the deed is thoroughly checked. However, the problem begins when the fraud is performed using a real deed, one that was either stolen or simply taken from the owner. The sad thing is that such thieves often recruit from our family and closest friends, people we would never suspect of anything.
The most popular way is to get some kind of authorization (or truly, just a signature) from the owner in addition to a deed. This way the thief can do whatever they like without any real risk for being done. This is an especially popular scam used against older people – a nurse or a family member either take a loan in the name of the elder or just force them into taking it.
Another, even more outrageous, real estate fraud is performed by unethical door-to-door loan sellers. Under the pretext of making home repairs, they force the seniors into signing some documents which are truly high-rate loan contracts secured against the property. As most seniors are unable to repay such debt, their homes are taken by the creditor (which was its goal from the beginning) and the elder is left homeless.
Defending against such frauds is difficult. If the thieves use false deeds, it is possible to prove that you had nothing to do with the loan or purchase. However, if they use a real deed and / or have your authorization, this gets dicey. And taking effective legal actions is next to impossible if you sign the loan papers.
Here are some tips to help protect yourself from such scams: 1) never sign anything you have not thoroughly read and if you are in doubt have your attorney review the documents before signing; 2) throw out any peddling loan lenders; 3) keep important documents, such as your deed, in a safe deposit box.