in this issue

  By Lisa A. Tyler
National Escrow Administrator

Sellers in many states have accepted offers from international buyers who claim they are purchasing with cash. Turns out, these buyers are wasting the seller's precious time because they are actually fraudsters who deposit invalid checks with the settlement agent. They send the entire purchase price in one check, including the earnest money. Next, they try to back out of the deal and convince the settlement agent to refund their money before the settlement agent is notified by the bank the check is invalid. Many times they present a check drawn off a foreign bank and/or the funds are from a third-party — not the actual buyer. These are all tricks they use to buy time hoping they can get away with their schemes. Their excuses for canceling are quite elaborate. Read "SELLERS beware!" to discover one such example.

While illegally diverted wire transfers appear to be declining, giving the industry a reprieve from the crime plaguing them for years, it is not time to let our guard down. Read how one escrow officer in the national commercial services office prevented a diverted wire transfer of a subcontractor payment. Read the article titled "STANDARD operating procedures" to learn more. 

Next in our series about state withholding, we feature the Aloha State. Sellers of Hawaii real property are subject to 7.25% real estate withholding of the contract sales price. It is the buyer's obligation to withhold, although the appropriate tax remittance forms and withholding is collected through closing and remitted to the state by the escrow officer on behalf of the buyer. In Hawaii, real estate withholding is commonly referred to as HARPTA, which is an acronym for Hawaii Real Property Tax Act. Read the story titled "HAWAII real estate withholding" for detailed information.

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