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An uptick in title fraud in Southwest Florida

Posted at 9:27 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 06:53:14-05

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — Southwest Florida is booming with construction and the demand for houses is evident. You can see a new home being built on almost every street. More people are moving into this piece of paradise, but also the number of people stealing title information and trying to sell it is also rising.

The Lee County Clerk of Courts said it's become more common.

“They target owners, foreign owners of vacant lots," Andrea Quilter, a local real estate agent, said.

She got an inquiry from a man. He wanted to sell a plot of land he owned.

“I had never heard of this person, and when I asked him how he chose me to be his realtor, he was very vague, and my experience has been that," Quilter said.

She had him sign a listing contract. Quilter then listed the lot for sale, but the real owner found it.

“He was very upset," she said.

She didn't have an opportunity to talk with him but spoke to his realtor after the incident.

Quilter said since then, she'd been contacted two other times to sell land that belonged to someone else. It has left her very skeptical at times.

“I asked the supposed it owner about the House, and he said, oh no, it's a vacant lot well, I knew right then and there that wasn't the real owner," she said.

That situation she said the lot was being built on. The supposed owner said it was vacant, yet she saw a half-built house on the lot.

Quilter has since learned some of the red flags. In every case, she said the person usually isn't from the U.S. and looks to buy vacant lots owned by foreign owners.

The Lee County Clerk of Courts said the scammer will also file a fraudulent deed and then attempt to sell the property as their own — often a completely empty lot

“Because you know, then we don't worry about getting into a house or anything like," Quilter said.

She said doing a little homework quickly reveals the truth.

For realtors and owners of vacant lots, Quilter said it's all about title insurance.

“Title insurance will guarantee you a clear title and if there's a problem, that's what the insurance will cover, so they will make it right," she said.

The clerk of courts offers a free property fraud alert. They said you can get an email notification anytime your deed, mortgage or other land is recorded.