Wow! That Can’t Happen to Me … Can It? Part 3

A number of recent real estate scams underscore the need for diligence on the part of all parties to a real estate transaction, including real estate agents and settlement companies. Part three. This is a three part series on real estate scams and fraud.  Check out Part One and Part Two if you haven’t already done so. A third example of real estate fraud involves residential leases. A scammer, posing as an out-of-state property owner, will list property for lease, either through a realty company or on an on-line service, such as Craigslist. The scammer will provide a lease application to the prospective tenant, and then send a lease to be signed and returned with a money order for the required security deposit. Once the money order has been received, the purported “landlord” is never heard from again. Purchasers of real estate should seriously consider the decision to purchase owner’s title insurance, and not just look at it as a question of whether to spend or save a few dollars. The lessons to be emphasized from these cases are many. First and foremost, individuals need to monitor their credit on a regular basis. Property owners need to keep track of what is happening with their property, particularly investment or undeveloped property located out of state. Real estate agents and title companies need to be always vigilant in their exercise of due diligence, especially when dealing with out of state sellers and landlords. Take diligent steps to know who you are dealing with, insuring that a person is who he purports to be. Purchasers of real estate should seriously consider the decision to purchase owner’s title insurance, and not just look at it as a question of whether to spend or save a few dollars. A heightened level of vigilance could make the difference, and it may have in the above...

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Wow! That Can’t Happen to Me … Can It? Part 2

A number of recent real estate scams underscore the need for diligence on the part of all parties to a real estate transaction, including real estate agents and settlement companies. Part two. This is a three part series on real estate scams and fraud.  Check out Part One if you haven’t already done so. The nephew hired an older woman, also well into her eighties, to impersonate his aunt. Another real estate scam we’ve seen in recent years involves mortgage fraud. Several years ago we were involved in a case where an elderly out-of-state woman owned a piece of residential property located in Northern Virginia that she leased to third party tenants. The owner was well into her late eighties and owned the property free and clear. A nephew of the woman, recognizing the potential for money-making at his aunt’s expense, took out a home equity mortgage on the property in his aunt’s name. The daringness of the young nephew reached new levels. The nephew hired an older woman, also well into her eighties, to impersonate his aunt. In doing so he prepared various fraudulent documents and supplied her with a fake driver’s license. He then accompanied the woman to a bank to apply for a mortgage in the aunt’s name. When the loan was closed, the imposter forged the aunt’s name on the loan documents, and the nephew pocketed the proceeds and promptly vanished. The property owner did not learn of the mortgage until the loan fell into arrears and a notice of foreclosure was served on her tenants. The real owner only received notice of the pending foreclosure and the perpetrated fraud within a few days before the scheduled foreclosure, at which time she retained our firm to address and correct the situation.   The property owner incurred significant legal fees to stop the foreclosure and to work with the bank to establish that the loan had been obtained fraudulently. Because her identity was stolen, the property owner must now constantly monitor her credit. The bank now has claims against the title company that closed the loan and against its lender’s title insurance policy. Part Three of our three part series on real estate scams and fraud will offers more example and lessons learned. Chung & Press, P.C. handles a diverse array of legal matters, including residential and commercial real estate transactions and closings, corporate and business transactions, bankruptcy, litigation, and intellectual property. Our experienced attorneys and staff provide  streamlined, cost efficient legal representation with a high-level of personal attention to all of our clients, from individuals, to entrepreneurs and small businesses, to large companies. We serve clients in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., as well as handle matters throughout the United States and abroad. Please do not hesitate to contact us at (703) 734-3800 to discuss your legal...

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Wow! That Can’t Happen to Me … Can It?

A number of recent real estate scams underscore the need for diligence on the part of all parties to a real estate transaction, including real estate agents and settlement companies. The sale was ultimately voided by the circuit court as a forged deed cannot pass title, even to a bona fide purchaser for value. One such scam involved the sale of property in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was reported in the June 9, 2014, issue of the Virginia Lawyers Weekly. A thief set up an elaborate ruse to impersonate the property owner for the purpose of contracting to sell the property. The imposter contacted the local clerk’s office to change the ownership address of record to a post office box in Florida. The imposter then contacted a realty company in Virginia Beach to list the property for sale. Once a contract was signed (or forged in the case of the named seller), the seller’s settlement documents, including the deed, were sent to Florida for the “seller’s” signature. The imposter set up a fake social security number and obtained a forged notary seal to acknowledge the deed. When the deed was recorded, the sales proceeds were wired to an account in Florida. The imposter and the sales proceeds have since disappeared. The real owner of the property only learned of the sale when he contacted the same realty company to sell the property himself. To regain ownership the real owner was forced to file a legal action in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court. The sale was ultimately voided by the circuit court as a forged deed cannot pass title, even to a bona fide purchaser for value. The owner incurred thousands of dollars in legal fees, and the realty company and the title company that conducted the closing are facing claims from the purchasers and their lender for the loss of the property and the funds transferred to the imposter. Check out Part Two and Part Three of our three part series on real estate scams and fraud for more examples and lessons learned. Chung & Press, P.C. handles a diverse array of legal matters, including residential and commercial real estate transactions and closings, corporate and business transactions, bankruptcy, litigation, and intellectual property. Our experienced attorneys and staff provide  streamlined, cost efficient legal representation with a high-level of personal attention to all of our clients, from individuals, to entrepreneurs and small businesses, to large companies. We serve clients in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., as well as handle matters throughout the United States and abroad. Please do not hesitate to contact us at (703) 734-3800 to discuss your legal needs....

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At Chung & Press, we advise and represent a wide range of clients facing a variety of legal issues from individuals, to entrepreneurs and small businesses, to some of the nation’s largest companies. The firm serves clients in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., as well as clients throughout the United States and worldwide.

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