Just when you think the real estate fraud scamsters are all out of business along comes a timely reminder that they're not gone, just morphed into one of a myriad of other schemes designed to separate people from their money and/or their homes.
When I told a few people about this latest one their response was 'Surely nobody is stupid enough to think their home can be declared a sovereign nation?' All I can say is - desperate people do desperate things, and there's a lot of desperate people out there right now. And though I haven't seen the names of the rest of the perpetrators or a list of victims, based on probability I'd bet the victims names are almost exclusively Hispanic. Because perpetrators most commonly prey on an affinity group, one that may lack investment sophistication, lack real estate knowledge and may be more trusting of someone who 'looks and speaks like they do'.
It's up to us, in our individual markets, to get the word out there. We have the opportunity to educate not only our own members to recognize this type of fraud, but to educate members of the public as well. In may areas law enforvcement is either too lax, too unsophisticated to pursue this type of crime, or simply too overwhelmed to do much about this. Offer to work with law enforcement to provide heads-up and/or research info for them. Offer to write articles or commentary for your local newspaper or business journal. Encourage your local Realtor Association to start a public section or BLOG to post public service information.
5:40 a.m. January 11, 2009
SAN DIEGO — Authorities say a ring of criminals bilked distressed San Diego homeowners by persuading them they could declare their properties to be independent nations.
The district attorney's office in San Diego says homeowners who were facing foreclosure were told they could buy "land patents" that would make their homes sovereign nations.
The idea was that bank officials then would be barred from coming onto their property.
One suspect, 55-year-old Jessica Refuerzo, was arrested Friday. Two other suspects remain at large and two others were arrested earlier.
At least 17 victims lost tens of thousands of dollars in the scheme.
Visit the Mortgage Fraud Group and post your warning.