ORLANDO, Fla. – Great deals for vacant Florida land owned by offshore investors have become a hot target for international conmen playing the real estate market to walk off with hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving the buyer with no funds and no land.
The scheme is built on county records that lists undeveloped land owned by international investors.
The thieves assume the identity of the actual landowner and contact area real estate brokers to help them move the vacant lots quickly.
According to Special Agent Brian Crowley of the Orlando Secret Service, Brevard and Osceola counties are seeing a surge of fraudulent sales attempts because the counties “have a disproportionally high number of undeveloped lots” currently owned by out-of-area owners.
Crowley said the long distance provides the perfect cover for the fraudsters.
“It’s an easy scheme to fall for when all the communication is done by email and not face to face,” Crowley told News 6, “We don’t know the actual face of the owner, which is why this is a lucrative scheme.”
Marty Piatkowski, owner of Twin County Realty in Palm Bay, told News 6 he is averaging one to two quick land sales requests every week.
“They don’t even give a reason why they want to sell it fast, they just want to sell it fast,” Piatkowski said.
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Piatkowski said he has asked the alleged owners to provide proof of identification.
In three recent cases, the imposters produced altered passports with the real land owner’s names along with photographs that had obviously been attached to replace another photo.
Piatkowski said once he asked to talk to them via Facetime or Zoom, they went silent.
“Actually there’s a real estate friend of mine who lives in my development, she bought a lot for $115,000,” Piatkowski said, “Luckily, she had title insurance and was able to get the money back.”
Crowley said it is difficult to “quantify” how many attempts have been made across the state so far, but that we can “confidently report that the attempts are in the hundreds.”
Typical land buyers want vacant Florida lots to build retirement homes, the key is to work with a reputable real estate agent and make sure you are in face-to-face contact with the land owner.
If you think you are a victim of a land fraud scheme, call your local secret service office or send the information to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3.
You can contact them at www.ic3.gov.
If you want our help email email@example.com or text the words make ends meet to 407-676-7428.
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