Scam Warning!

January 12, 2023

- By The MAR Legal Team

Last Updated: Monday, April 22nd, 2024

The real estate industry has become accustomed to the ever-evolving threats of fraud, whether it be through wiring instructions, postings of listed properties for rent, or even fraudulent parties in a transaction. “Land Scams” involving fraudulent sellers/buyers have been occurring with more regularity in marketplaces across the country, including Massachusetts. In this scam, an individual contacts a broker to list a property for sale, often, land or a vacant home, but they are not the owner of the property and do not have the authority to sell that property. Frequently, the “seller” will be located out of state and may only communicate via email, text, or phone call. Sometimes, as these scams progress, a “buyer” even becomes involved, often seeking to legitimize a fraudulent transaction.

REALTORS® should take extra caution when receiving an online or blind lead to ensure that the information provided is legitimate. Prior to entering into a contract with an out-of-state client, REALTORS® should engage in some due diligence, such as:

  • Have a video meeting with the lead; 
  • Ask to see the individual’s identification;  
  • If there should be more than one owner, seek to be in contact with them as well;
  • Search the internet and social media to see if they seem legitimate;
  • Check the phone number to see what name is attached;
  • If they are posing as a “buyer” ask for proof of funds, or lending verification;
  • Check the property records, tax records and the Registry of Deeds – do the names match? If they do, and you are still skeptical, see if there is a secondary address for your to mail the owner as additional means of verification;
  • Verify that the email address does not seem phony or come from a suspect extension;
  • Trust your “gut” and red flags.

If you receive a lead that seems too good to be true, or otherwise seems suspicious in any way, stop and have a conversation with your broker prior to moving forward. Failure to engage in due diligence could result in significant harm to you, your broker, the buyer, and the true owner of the property.