in this issue

By Lisa A. Tyler
National Escrow Administrator

Real estate scams are on the rise. Property owners of vacant lots or homes which are not their primary residence are the targets. The scheme works like this, a fraudster identifies a property by looking for vacant lots or non-owner-occupied homes (that are usually vacant).

The home is listed for sale on a popular website or a real estate agent is contacted to list the property for sale or an application for a loan is made in the owner’s name. The property is either listed below market value to ensure a fast sale, or the imposter obtains a loan and absconds with the loan proceeds. The tips in this newsletter are intended to be shared. Forward the article titled “PROPERTY owners beware!” to real estate agents, property owners and buyers. 

Consumers are receiving overnight deliveries with counterfeit checks that appear to be issued by a title company. Some of the consumers are told they have been hired by a company that has accessed their posting of a resume on a job recruiting site. The purpose of the counterfeit check is to convince the consumer to deposit the check and send a portion of it to the “hiring” company to purchase equipment they will need to perform their new job or to pay their recruitment fee. 

Of course, the payee is none other than the fraudster who wants to abscond with the consumer’s money before it is discovered the check they deposited was counterfeit. Other fraudsters are using the “SECRET shopper” tactic to dupe consumers. Be sure to read the article and become familiar with these schemes. 

Last month, we provided an overview of how to complete IRS Form 8300. However, there is one box found on the form we did not cover. There may be situations where the settlement agent is suspicious about the principal or other parties to a real estate transaction. Suspicious transactions may include: 

  • The person with whom they are conducting business is attempting to cause the Form 8300 not to be filed,
  • The settlement agent is asked or pressured to file a false or incomplete form,
  • There is an indication a party is attempting to launder funds.

Settlement agents may voluntarily report a suspicious transaction by marking box 1b on Form 8300. A suspicious form may be filed even if the “cash” received from any one remitter is less than $10,000. Voluntarily filing Form 8300 does not require notification to the party. 

Settlement agents who are suspicious about a transaction should contact their management for assistance. Read “REVIEW of ‘cash’ reporting” for one last quiz on what we have learned throughout the year.

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