4 Your Home

Land Scammers Offer to Sell Property They Don't Own

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A couple looking to build their dream home in Virginia almost fell for a land scam that’s happening across the country.

Kal Davis has been looking all over the commonwealth for the right piece of property to build his home.

“This is the one where you sit back and say, ‘OK, all the years of hard work has put me here and this is the one I’m going to enjoy and this is going to be it,’” he said.

He and his wife almost had the wool pulled over their eyes a few months ago, he said.

“It’s definitely buyer beware,” he said.

Scammers try to sell property that’s owned by someone else and isn’t available to purchase. They find a vacant plot of land, market it for sale and hope potential buyers don’t do a lot of research.

“There are things that you look at, and it’s just too good to be true,” Davis said. “You follow up on it, and it’s, ‘Oh yeah, we'll get you the information right away’ or ‘Give us money first and then we'll find what you’re looking for.’”

Davis’ realtor in Fredericksburg, Amy Cherry Taylor, says the scammers seem legit at first.  

“I actually did speak to one of the people we were contacted by, so they're willing to talk on the phone,” she said. “Others are just willing to communicate online. Neither of them wanted to meet in person; neither of them wanted to do a Zoom or anything like that.

There were specific questions we were asking about the property that they couldn't answer, and that's when we started to realize that there was a situation and that this maybe was not the actual owner.”

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says it isn’t just a local problem. Realtor associations all over the country are encountering similar land scams.

NAR says fraudsters use fake emails with convincing signature blocks and, in some cases, use fake passports and IDs.

When buying a property, NAR recommends requesting a video call, reaching out with a letter to the seller and searching the property tax records for the address.

“We have small children, and in this economy, every dollar, every dollar matters,” Davis said. “If you get scammed and you lose 10,000, 20,000, even a basic deposit of, say, 5,000, it hurts everybody.”

Davis didn't fall for the scam, and his hard-earned money is safe. To protect home investments, Taylor also recommends working with a reputable title company and getting title insurance.

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