Since November of last year, there have been multiple reports of local REALTORS® being contacted by an individual via phone, text messages and email to list unimproved land for sale in the greater Williamsburg area and falsely claiming to be the property owner. The correct property owner was unaware of this fraudulent attempt to sell his property, however after being contacted, the correct owner has indicated that they absolutely are not wanting to sell and asked that this warning be sent out to all local REALTORS®.
For both your safety and the safety of the consumer, please verify the identity of any client to whom you are in contact via electronic communication and absolutely do not list property until you have confirmed the identity of the correct owner(s).
So what should you watch out for?
- Sellers who want to conduct the entire transaction virtually and do not want to meet “face to face” even by video call
- Sellers who are looking to sell their property fast, for cash, and/or below market value, especially if there are no liens on the property
- Photo IDs, such as driver’s licenses or passports, that are barely legible
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Conduct independent research on property ownership through the county land records
- Insist on meeting with the seller—either in person or by video call
- Insist on a known settlement company or attorney being involved in the transaction
- If something seems off, speak with your broker about further steps you can take