Oct 21, 2013

Tip 30-2013: Real Estate Scam

Tucker's Tip has learned of a new scam that is targeting real estate lawyers and title companies. A potential buyer, typically from outside the United States, contacts a well-known real estate agent and communicates his desire to purchase a parcel of real property. The agent, in turn, speaks to a real estate lawyer or title company and requests that the deposit money (in the form of a cashier's check drawn on a well-known financial institution) be placed into the lawyer or title company's escrow account.  

The agent, who has a good working relationship with the lawyer or title company, urges the lawyer or title company to begin work immediately on the purchase. Then, the agent learns that the potential buyer cannot complete the transaction for a credible sounding reason, like the death of a purchaser. The potential buyer or his heir immediately requests a return of the funds submitted only a few days before. 

Here's the scam -- the lawyer or the title company returns the funds without waiting for the original deposit to "officially" clear, only to discover later that the original cashier's check was a fake. Those who have been victims of this type of scam have had to pay a significant amount of money to remedy the deficiencies in their trust accounts.  

Realtors, Real Estate Lawyers, and Title Companies need to be aware of any such scam. Banks are required by law to make funds available within certain proscribed time limits. Yet, although bank personnel might confirm that a check has "cleared" locally, that does not necessarily mean that the funds have been fully reconciled.  

MORAL OF THE STORY: Never return any escrow funds until you are certain that the funds have actually "cleared." 

Contact me at 434-951-0858 or Tucker@TGBLaw.com if you have questions.  Thank you for allowing us to send you this email.      

William D. Tucker, III   
Tucker's Tip Blog - FacebookTwitter      
Charlottesville, VA 434-973-7474 | Lake Monticello (Palmyra, VA) 434-589-3636       

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