What steps can a listing agent take to verify that the person contacting them is really the owner of the property?
There have been an increasing number of reports in Massachusetts relating to fraudulent sellers. Often, these scams are attempted on vacation properties or vacant properties because the legitimate owners may not be routinely physically present at the property. Some indicators of a potentially fraudulent seller are:
• They say are out of state/country and cannot meet in person;
• Refusal to engage in a video conference;
• Insistence on selling the property fast;
• Willingness to sell below market value.
If faced with a situation where perhaps the lead seems too good to be true, or there are some red flags, a diligent listing agent should:
• Seek advice from their broker;
• Request identification from the seller(s);
• Do a records search – do the names match?
• Insist on a video call;
• Do an internet/social media search for the seller(s).
If the seller is legitimate, they will likely be agreeable to the efforts to verify their identity and ownership status of the property. In those situations where the person is attempting to perpetrate a fraud, taking these additional steps will likely act as a sufficient deterrent to the scammer.
Failure to engage in proper due diligence by the listing agent could result in significant damages to the listing agent, the brokerage, the owners of the property, and the buyers.
Courtesy of the MAR Legal Team.