Real estate fraud affects home buyers and homeowners in Chicago and around the country. These scams  happen year-around, but they increase during the summer when real estate activity is high. Here are two examples you’ll want to know about! 

Down payment theft through wire fraud. In this scheme, a scammer hijacks an email account involved in a home purchase. After silently following the conversations for awhile, the scammer eventually impersonates the real estate agent, mortgage lender, or title company, copying the person’s email design and signature, including the company logo. The fraudster then sends an urgent email to the buyer with false instructions for wiring the down payment. It is written convincingly to compel the buyer to wire the funds asap. 

After receiving the false instructions, the victimized buyer wires the down payment to the scammer’s foreign bank account. The money is nearly impossible to recover once this happens. Do not accept any closing instruction changes about your down payment through email! If you receive such an email, stop and contact your agent and mortgage lender by phone or in person – don’t risk replying to the email. Read more from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Title fraud – home equity theft. In this complex scam, a fraudster uses public data to look for a paid off home, or a valuable land parcel without any liens. Next, the scammer pretends to be the property owner. He creates a fake ID, assuming the property owner’s name and address and inserting his own photo. He forges the owner’s signature on all the documents. Fake photos are used in the sale listing. A bargain price is advertised to draw a quick, cash sale, in hopes of bringing an investor who will make the purchase sight unseen. 

The fraudster uses online closing processes and forged notary credentials to pull off the scam. The account the fraudster sets up to receive the sale proceeds is overseas, set up using the fake ID and credentials, usually with a foreign conspirator as a co-signer. The funds are washed through the foreign account quickly, making it difficult to recover the money or identify the scammers. The real owner may not become aware of the scam until the victimized buyer shows up. 

Untangling your real estate from title fraud isn’t easy. Fortunately, the Cook County Property Fraud Unit offers an automated alert service to help you. If someone files a deed or other important document regarding your property, you’ll be notified right away! Read more from the Cook County Clerk

StartingPoint Realty – serving Chicagoland since 2004!

StartingPoint Realty proudly serves first-time home buyers and sellers throughout the entire Chicago area. Contact us for your free home buying or home selling consultation!

Ryan Gable Broker/CEO Starting Point Realty
Phone: 847.348.1154

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