Protecting Your Home and Property: A Tale of Seller Impersonation Fraud

A few weeks ago, during a casual meeting, a fellow attendee brought up a topic that caught my attention—seller impersonation fraud concerning residential homes and properties. Some call it Title Theft. Intrigued and concerned about the potential risks, I decided to seek out an expert to shed light on this growing threat.

I had the privilege of speaking with Lindsey Rogers, a seasoned closing attorney at Campbell and Brannon, who graciously shared her insights and knowledge on the subject. Our conversation was not only eye-opening but also served as a wake-up call for anyone who values their home and property.

Campbell and Brannon
One Buckhead Plaza
3060 Peachtree Road NW, Suite 1735
Atlanta, GA  30305
Phone: +1 (404) 504-8700
Fax: (404) 446-2166
Lindsey Rogers

Understanding Seller Impersonation Fraud

So just how does this work? Lindsey says, “The fraudster calls a realtor and says they need to sell the property quickly. They often have very dramatic stories of why they need to list. They say they want a cash offer ASAP and are willing to sell lower to get a cash offer.” What makes them even more convincing is that these fraudsters may have Googled or looked up the real homeowner to gather information, making them seem more believable to unsuspecting realtors.

In this type of scenario, the agent can easily find a buyer, and the agent may or may not ever even meet the fraudster seller (as they are good with excuses), and a quick cash closing is in the works. Fraudulent Sellers may have dramatic stories of why they need to do a mail-away closing, or they may call at the last minute and claim they can’t attend the closing.

What type of homeowner is most at risk? Owners of vacant homes and vacant properties, as well those with second homes where the owners are away for long periods of time are at greatest risk of fraud. In one situation, a friend called a property owner (who lived out of town) and said I see your For Sale sign…you didn’t tell me you were selling your land. The owner did not list her land for sale. She is at risk of having her title stolen and land sold without her knowledge. Thankfully, her friend tipped off the fraudster before anything happened.

If the closing attorney is not vigilant and hasn’t set up protocols, this type of fraud can and does happen. If a fraudster is successful, then you, as the homeowner, have to file an action and prove that you were not the seller. Usually, this has to go before a judge so the deed can be invalidated.

Protecting Your Property

Now that we know how this fraud operates, what can homeowners do to protect their properties? Ask friends and neighbors to keep a lookout for vacant properties and report any activities. Also, one effective step is monitoring deed records. One such company, Title Lock, offers this service for a monthly fee.

However, there’s great news for Georgia homeowners! The Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority offers a monitoring service for free called FANS (Filing Activity Notification System). Property owners can create an account on their website.

Additionally, some counties offer their own versions of this service. For example, Fulton County has REAACT (Fulton County REAACT), and DeKalb County has its fraud registry program (DeKalb County Fraud Registry).

Understanding Title Insurance

Lindsey went on to offer some valuable information on title insurance. She says, “If you purchased your property from a fraudulent seller and you have owner’s title insurance, you will have coverage under your policy to protect your investment.  Additionally, if you have an enhanced owner’s title policy, that policy provides post-policy forgery coverage.  This means that the title insurance company will defend your ownership interest in your property if someone forges your signature on a deed.”

In conclusion, seller impersonation fraud is a growing concern that demands our attention and vigilance. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. By staying informed, implementing preventive measures, and fostering a sense of community vigilance, we can collectively protect our homes and properties from falling prey to these unscrupulous individuals.

Remember, it’s not just your home; it’s your sanctuary, your legacy. Let’s work together to keep it safe and secure.

If you have any questions or stories to share about seller impersonation fraud, please feel free to e-mail me or Lindsey.

Many thanks to Lindsey Rogers of Campbell and Brannon

Contact me today to start a conversation about your real estate dreams. 

Lee Ann Wynns 404-680-7850 

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