The real estate title swap scam

This scam is much more devious than it seems at first glance. Plus, if you do it right you can score huge amounts of money really fast. I was telling a group of students a little while ago that I was actually going to keep this one for myself. You know, just in case I needed to make a suitcase full of money and then go live on a secluded beach in Mexico until I died. I thought about it a lot and I decided I’ll just post this one here and try to come up with a publishing deal instead.

So here’s how it goes. I’m still not going to explain in too much detail just in case I change my mind about the book deal and decide to do it myself. What you do is go around and find three older, run down homes that are a little overgrown with weeds and look like nobody has cared for them for years. You want houses that look like the kids have not decided what to do with the old family home since their Mom died. You have to go back a few times and knock on the door to make sure nobody lives there anymore. Leave one of your business cards for your fake company just in case they don’t answer the door or if one of the kids still swings by occasionally.

You then go to the county appraiser’s office or whatever and do a title search. Hopefully there hasn’t been a sale of the properties in twenty years. You print out the most recent titles and as much the info about the owners as you can. You type up new deeds and a fake sale documents. You ‘sell’ the houses and the land to something called “ABC Development” or some equally fake company that you paid $100 to register with the state. You can ‘sell’ the properties to a single person, but that requires either a complete new persona with a social security number or you have to use your own real identity. I suppose using your own info doesn’t matter if you get away with this and spend the next twenty years bar hopping in Acapulco. However, it’s a lot easier to get a  free business tax ID number. The feds don’t check who asked for one of those, just that you paid the correct fee. Oops, I’m starting to give away too much about this scam.

Anyhow, the real owners don’t know you did anything to the titles because you do a forwarding mail request at the post office. Nothing shows up in the mailboxes at the properties, even if they were checking. Just to be sure, you probably want to invest $50 in new locks on the property so that only you have the keys. It also helps your image when you have someone who wants to look at the place next week.

Next you post the homes for sale for some cheap amount. The guys who call themselves ‘sharks’ because they watched too many of those ‘flip that house’ shows on cable TV start calling. I don’t want to give too much away here, but there are ways to list things online that make those guys come out of the woodwork. When they call, you tell them that the house was a family thing and you’re moving away now that Ma kicked the bucket. Too many memories. You just wanna sell, and sell now. They smell “motivated seller” like it was blood in the water and they try to get ruthless on you. You pretend to be sad but in the end you reluctantly accept $40,000. The land alone is probably worth twice that. When you go to the title company’s office to sign the paperwork you shake your head and talk about how you grew up there. Good times, man.

There’s a lot of paper to sign with house sales. Don’t forget whose name you were using as you sign everything.

Title companies try to call the last owner but when grandma died and the kids move to Oklahoma or wherever, they can’t confirm anything. They go off the deed you filed and the fake signature you scribbled for the fake new owner you work for, Verna Rae Lippschultz, god have mercy on her soul. Yours, too, for doing something like this.

Treat Mom’s house well you tell the house flipper, with a little fake tear in your eye. He’s going to be sitting there with a cat-ate-the-canary grin thinking he took advantage of a dumb hick. Arrange to withdraw the cash from the bank over the next two days but don’t go over the $10,000 transfer limit each time. The banks have to report those transactions and you don’t want to raise any flags before you go sit on the beach with a bucket of Pacifico beers and some spring breakers.

-Samuel Owen

© Samuel Owen 2012. All rights reserved. Please read important notices and disclaimers by clicking here.
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Author: Samuel Owen

This is my Lawyer Rant. I've put up with new associates trying to kill me, clients being dangerous idiots, and Judges being rude for far too long. It's time for me to tell it like it really is, and it feels good to give back.

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