Fake Sellers continue to plague the real estate world this year

seller impersonation fraud

It may be a new year, but now is a good time as any to remind everyone in real estate that seller impersonation fraud is still something to worry about in 2024. It was the scam dominating the national industry conversation last year, and it’s likely only going to be more prevalent going forward.

How does it work? Here’s a recap from our parent company’s General Counsel. Using online property records, scammers search for vacant lots, second homes, unimproved land, etc. Then, they pretend to be the property owner by creating a fake ID and using it to convince a real agent to make a listing for them. If successful, they push for a quick, cash-only sale and a remote closing before the real property owner even knows what’s happening. 

How common is it? In a word, very. Consider what industry fraud expert Tom Cronkright told HousingWire in December. “(We’ve) seen 35 confirmed cases of seller impersonation since March. And I was made aware of another two today.” Cronkright is the head of CertifID, a company Stellar Title uses to help keep your transactions and money more secure from these kinds of scams. When Tom talks about this issue, everyone should listen. (Plus, he’s a fellow Midwesterner.)

What should we be doing to fight this fraud? It seems simple, but awareness of this scam and all the others is the first step to staying ahead. For Realtors, take the time to be extra vigilant about verifying a seller’s identification, especially if it seems like a listing lead came from thin air. In other words, please take a second to make sure your sellers are who they say they are. 

What else should I know about fraud? That this is only one kind of scam out there. Keep talking about all the dangers lurking out there for our customers and their transactions, and remind them to reach out to you – and our Stellar Title team – if anything ever seems off. We’re here for you. Tell anyone and everyone that payment instructions rarely change, and any unsolicited instructions of a switch should be an immediate red flag of a likely scam.

The Stellar Title team is ready to work for you this year. Rely on us to guide your transaction to the finish line with expertise and care. Reach out to us today!