In an audacious spin on Florida’s infamous “swampland” cons, Floridians are being duped into parting with enormous sums of cash. Swindlers employ a clever charade of land sale to fool innocent people, cleverly replicating the complex processes of property transfer to catch victims unawares.
Tricky Tracks of Illusion
A vast amount of Florida’s terrain is untouched and unclaimed. This abundance has provided a fertile breeding ground for a wave of sophisticated scams. The fraudsters meticulously comb through county records to identify and impersonate rightful landowners and title companies.
Once the stage is set, they strike unsuspecting realtors and potential buyers, peddling lots with urgency while routing transaction money into their pockets through fake wiring instructions.
Marty Piatkowski, a seasoned realtor at Twin County Realty, Palm Bay, admitted to being roped into one to two dubious quick-sale deals every week. He observed that the swindlers hardly bother to provide a credible reason for their hurry.
Scams Boom, Dollars Doom
Orlando’s Special Agent Brian Crowley from the Secret Service confirmed to News 6 that Florida has seen a rising tide of counterfeit documentation and fraudulent land deals, particularly in counties with abundant undeveloped land like Brevard and Osceola. The cost? A staggering “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars”.
According to Crowley, the sheer convenience of email communications is what makes these scams so effective. The perpetrators remain faceless, and the victims oblivious until it’s too late.
Beware the Wires
Wire fraud, using electronic communication for criminal intent, is a prevalent menace in real estate, says Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout and Credit.com. A healthy dose of skepticism and careful verification of every message is crucial in all real estate dealings.
Tom Cronkright, CEO and co-founder of the wire fraud recovery and prevention company CertifID, offers some useful tips to avoid falling victim to these scams:
- Ask about the process of transferring closing funds from the title company.
- Independently verify wiring instructions.
- Confirm the receipt of funds with the right person.
- Be wary of any changes to the wiring instructions.
- Contact the title company or real estate agent if anything seems suspicious or feels wrong.
Being Smart in the Face of Scams
Cronkright emphasizes the importance of due diligence, working with professional realtors, and educating oneself about the buying process. “It’s essential to use common sense, stay vigilant, and do your research,” he recommends. After all, the line between a dream deal and a raw deal could be thinner than one imagines in the fertile plains of Florida.