Over Half of U.S. Real Estate Professionals Experienced a Seller Impersonation Fraud Attempt in 2023
November 8, 2023
According to an October 2023 survey from CertifID, 54% of real estate professionals reported having experienced at least one seller impersonation fraud attempt within the past six months.
Meanwhile, 77% of real estate professionals surveyed claimed to have seen an increase in seller impersonation fraud attempts within the same period.
Seller impersonation fraud, a scam where a fraudster uses publicly available records to impersonate the owner of a vacant or unoccupied property to benefit from the sale, represents a major threat to U.S. property owners.
The U.S. Secret Service issued an advisory earlier in the year on this type of threat. Stephen Dougherty, a financial fraud investigator at the organization, recently shared that "we started seeing these vacant land scams or seller impersonation scams going back to last fall, and it’s been increasing ever since." Dougherty added that the scams are "highly organized. You need people to launder your money. You need people to be doing your research in terms of the properties that [they] want to attack.”
“CertifID started seeing an uptick in seller impersonation fraud attempts towards the end of 2022,” said Tyler Adams, CEO at CertifID. “Those early attempts served as a testing ground for what is now a broader campaign by crime syndicates. The trend will only worsen without the assistance of people, process, and technology to achieve more rigorous identity and ownership checks.”
“Realtors play an important role in educating home buyers and sellers. Fraud awareness on risks such as seller impersonation is just one of the areas where we really show our value,” said Jennifer Wauhob, 2023 vice president of association affairs at the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “It takes a team effort to protect the consumer and ensure we are working with people who are who they say they are in a transaction.”
CertifID's software can help prevent seller impersonation by evaluating more than 150 markers of fraud. So far in 2023, CertifID has identified 2,239 cases of suspected seller impersonation fraud for existing customers.
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