Ever since the Washington Post published an article in August about a land scam in Connecticut, it seems reports of fraudulent land claims have been popping up all over the place. As a professional real estate agent and REALTOR®, I find it crucial to keep you informed and alert to potential challenges and ways to overcome them. As your personal REALTOR®, your peace of mind and the security of your assets are part and parcel of what I do.
In our area, notably Adams, Chester, and Delaware Counties, there have been reports of fraudulent attempts to sell empty lots. In the past, scammers have tried such shenanigans with properties of all sorts, occupied and otherwise. The scams have, so far, been identified by REALTORS® before getting to the settlement table, but a public service announcement is warranted all the same.
What do the scams look like?
In today’s world of technology, scammers are better equipped than ever to impersonate an owner and perpetrate a fraudulent sale. As an example, they can search for empty lots that have been owned by the same owner for a long time from remote safety. They can contact and try to work with agents to sell any property. And they can produce false documentation to make themselves more believable.
The good news is that real live humans are needed at some point. These scammers usually contact a REALTOR® to sell the land for them. And it’s those REALTORS® that have stopped these deals from going through. Check out the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® website to learn more about how REALTORS® are helping prevent land fraud.
How can you be proactive?
Modern technology, while enabling scammers, also can be used to protect us all. Here in Chester County, the Recorder of Deeds has been using an automated system to notify registered users when changes are made in their name since 2012. By signing up and staying on top of any changes made in your name, you can be sure your land isn’t sold out from under you.
Below are links to more information about each county’s free fraud prevention programs. Many other counties in PA have similar services, with a full list of free services here.
- Chester County – Fraud Guard
- Delaware County – FraudSleuth
- Lancaster County – FraudSleuth
- Montgomery County – FraudSleuth
In today’s world, as ever, it’s important to keep track of your assets. Take a few minutes now to sign up for fraud protection and get ahead of the scammers.
I understand that property is more than just a possession—it's an investment, a plan for the future, and often, a cherished legacy. I encourage each one of you to be proactive and safeguard your assets. And remember, always reach out if you need advice or assistance. As your REALTOR®, I am not just here to help you buy and sell; I am here to advise and assist you in all things real estate. Stay safe, stay vigilant, and let's keep our community scam-free.