Smart crooks are fraudulently selling property in our town, and we gotta stop them. The con goes like this: The bad guys assume the identity of the owner of a piece of property, call a real estate agent and ask the agent to sell it. All of this is by burner phone with no way of tracing the purported property owner. The agent finds a buyer, the deal is made, the transaction goes to a title company and the deal is completed. The rightful owner is ignorant of all this, and the deal is “legally binding.” At this point, it is very difficult to rectify.
I ran into this con strategy last year when the vacant lot next to me was put on the market. The owner was down in the Lower 48 for the winter and I got suspicious. I called the owner and he called the agent and stopped the deal.
Last week, I got a letter from Stewart Title asking me if I was selling a vacant property we own adjacent to our home. I said no, and they said they were on the verge of finalizing the sale of the property. They immediately notified the buyer and the listing agent. Due to the integrity and careful professionalism of Stewart Title, we were not robbed of our property. Stewart said this was the fifth time that they had stopped a property fraud.
The prospective buyer was on his way from the States to sign the closing papers. He was saddened and had already contracted an excavating company to start clearing land.
I asked all of the participants to report these cases to the Anchorage Police Department or Alaska State Troopers fraud unit. The agents and title company staff said that law enforcement did not seem that interested in light of staffing problems and other more dangerous crimes.
I strongly encourage all real estate agencies, agents, and title companies to be vigilant and verify property ownership and work with law enforcement staff to catch these clever crooks.
— Fred Dyson
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