In March 2021, Fraud Insights included the story titled, "CASH purchases," which described a scheme where cash buyers purchased properties by official checks but also received sizeable refunds.
The official checks were drawn off an invalid account, but the Company only found out after the sale closed and all the funds were disbursed. The same buyers are featured in this story and they are not giving up.
Becky Lehmann, with Chicago Title Company in Illinois, was in the process of preparing to close a cash purchase transaction of a vacant lot. The buyer's own representatives were skeptical because the only means of communication with their client had been by email.
Becky prepared a closing statement and emailed it to the buyer. She was familiar with the schemes surrounding cash purchases and provided him with explicit instructions to call her for wire instructions.
The buyer responded, stating he already sent a cashier's check. Lehmann already determined she was not going to accept a cashier's check because this transaction had many red flags. The transaction also seemed similar to scams she read about in Fraud Insights.
As soon as the check arrived Becky's suspicions were confirmed — the buyer was an imposter. The check was not a cashier's check; it was a business check.
The company address on the check was from New York City. Becky searched for the company online; the company appeared to be legitimate, but their website reflected an address in Boston.
Becky reached out to the National Escrow Administration team via email at email@example.com. The team took one look at the memo line of the check and confirmed the buyer was the same imposter featured in "CASH purchases" (March 2021 issue).
The purchase price was $139,680 and the check was for $155,000. The buyer explained via email that the extra funds were to cover costs and asked Becky to simply refund any overage.
Becky resigned as escrow holder; she did a terrific job protecting the Company and seller from this scheme. She knew something was not right and she has earned $1,500. Congratulations and keep up the good work.
Article provided by contributing author:
Diana Hoffman, Corporate Escrow Administrator
Fidelity National Title Group
National Escrow Administration