With so much at stake in a real estate transaction, it should come as no surprise that plenty of unscrupulous people are trying to profit illegally and unethically from these sales. Lately, a scheme that involves attempts to sell properties not owned by the alleged seller are on an alarming rise. According to the Secret Service, the U.S. has experienced a 73% increase in seller impersonation attempts, just in 2022. Don’t you be the next victim of this fraudulent scheme and protect yourself by reviewing these Red Flags and Tips that will assist you in avoiding this scheme. Our team at First National Title (FNT) is also here to assist you in protecting the veracity of your purchase and help to ensure that you have a clean closing.

FNT is proud to be Arkansas’ largest independent title company, and you’ll always get to work with an agent in or near your community as you prepare for closing. In addition to the aforementioned Red Flags and Tips, here are a few questions to ask that will help to mitigate the associated risk of seller impersonation fraud as you proceed with any prospective real estate purchase:

Does the deal sound too good to be true? It is not uncommon for motivated sellers to offer a low listing price for a quick sale, but be rational, and if the deal sounds too good, it may very well be fraudulent! Fraudsters make pure profit any time they sell a property they don’t own, and their favorite targets are vacant lots combined with buyers that don’t ask questions.

Can you confirm the seller’s identity? Any legitimate seller should be easy to track down. It should raise a red flag if the caller’s area code differs from the property’s mailing address or if the seller avoids face-to-face or telephone conversations. It’s always a good idea to perform a reverse phone number search to ensure that the number matches the seller’s name and address and establish a “code word” with the seller and all professionals involved in the transaction. You may also decide to send written instructions/correspondence to the mailing address for the tax bill.

Is the seller in a rush to close? It typically takes approximately 30-40 days to make all the preparations for closing after an accepted offer, and it should raise a red flag if a seller attempts to skip any steps or seems in too big of a hurry to make a deal. If the seller provides wiring instructions for proceeds to a bank that is not geographically close to the property or the address for the tax bill, it should raise a red flag. In the event that the seller can’t physically attend the closing, you should insist on remote online notarization (RON), or using a mobile notary approved by FNT.

If you have any additional questions about seller impersonation fraud, title insurance and/or closings, contact us online or at any of our 25 convenient Arkansas locations listed below!