By Jill Bright | Guest Author Diana Hoffman | Chicago Title
SCENARIO: The Escrow Manager in Utah opened a sale of a vacant lot for $385,000. The buyer was a real estate investor paying cash. The buyer/investor never met the seller in person.
All communications were done via text or email. The seller signed the purchase agreement electronically. The buyer admitted he believed the deal was too good to be true. Unfortunately, he was right.
The Escrow Officer ordered the title report and, in accordance with Company policy, looked up the seller’s tax bill mailing address on the county website. The seller’s address was in Georgia. Knowing the buyer wanted to close quickly, the Escrow Officer decided to learn more about the owner, so she searched for the owner’s name on Google. ™
The search revealed where the seller worked. The Escrow Officer picked up the phone and tracked him down with a few questions. She asked him if he owned a lot in Utah to which he replied “Yes.” She then asked if the lot was for sale, and he said “No.” Next, the Escrow Officer asked him to confirm his mailing address, the approximate amount of the property taxes, and when he purchased the lot. After he provided all the correct answers, she confirmed he was the true owner.
The Escrow Officer explained the situation to the owner. He was upset to learn what was going on but very grateful that she tracked him down and went the extra mile to make him aware of the situation. She applauded him for having his current mailing address on file with the county, so she knew how to reach him.
The owner asked the Escrow Officer what he could do to protect himself. She informed him about a property watch notification system available through the county. Property owners can sign up to be notified if anything affecting their property is recorded. She urged him to sign up for the service and to also reach out to the local police department.
In addition to tracking down the real property owner, the Escrow Officer talked to the thief who fraudulently listed the lot for sale. She knew almost immediately he was an imposter since he knew nothing about the property history or facts about the true owner, including where he lived.
The moral of the story – our Title Department and Escrow Officers are trained to detect and prevent fraud which ultimately protects you!
Article provided by contributing author:
Diana Hoffman, Corporate Escrow Administrator
FNTG/National Escrow Administration