Ohio issues alert to realtors, buyers about property listing scam, deed fraud



The Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing (REPL) recently sent out an alert to make potential buyers and real estate agents aware of a concerning trend reported nationally: fraudulent real estate listings.

This scam involves people who are contacting agents to sell properties they don’t own.

A person posing as the owner of a vacant lot or home may ask an agent to list the property and present a false ID to prove their ownership.

If not caught and a transaction is completed, the scammer takes the money and disappears, while the buyer is left with a property they believe they’ve purchased, but isn’t lawfully theirs.

“We learned of a situation from an agent who was contacted by someone who claimed to have several properties with multiple owners who all wanted to sell,” said REPL Superintendent Daphne Hawk in a press release. “The agent requested identification of all sellers involved but received only two and she was not confident in their validity. The agent thought it was a red flag that the individual requested to get the properties listed quickly, so she spoke with her broker, and they confirmed the provided driver’s license was not valid.”

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in 2023, it received 9,521 real estate-based complaints nationally that amounted to $145.2 million in losses, exceeding losses related to identity theft-based crimes ($126.2 million).

Dayton Realtors President Kelly McCormick said she’s not aware of any local instances of realtors or property buyers falling victim to this kind of scheme, and multiple safeguards are in practice to help prevent a fraudulent listing being created.

“Realtors generally meet with sellers in person, in their homes,” McCormick said. “There are so many details a realtor follows to put a property on the market that could eliminate that fraud activity.”

McCormick urged real estate agents who may be concerned about a seller to have their title company provide a preliminary title search to confirm details about the property and its legal ownership.

Realtors can also check records through their local auditor’s and recorder’s offices.

Montgomery County Auditor’s Office spokesman Mike Brill said that the auditor’s website could help real estate agents verify property ownership information.

“County property records aren’t the end-all be-all to preventing this type of fraud, but they are certainly a valuable tool in an agent’s toolbox,” Brill said. “We often hear from local real estate professionals who say they use our site all the time.”

The state has suggested real estate agents and brokers not succumb to clients who pressure them to list properties quickly at the cost of a thorough review of the property.

In addition, realtors are advised to make sure that when they’re approached with a property with multiple owners, they ensure all owners provide their signatures on agreements to prevent complications.

McCormick agreed, stressing the importance of research before a property is included in a listing.

“Another safeguard is asking a lot of questions,” she said. “Do your research and due diligence before listing a property.”

The state is also calling on people wanting to purchase property to be aware of the issue of deed fraud.

Local officials have pointed to deed fraud — particularly fraud using quitclaim deeds — occurring in the Dayton area.

Quitclaim deeds are quick ways to transfer property and often are used by family members. But in these schemes, a quitclaim deed with a false signature of the owner, coupled with a negligent or complicit notarization, is recorded against the property.

The Montgomery County Recorder’s Office operates a free notification system to keep property owners in the loop for documents related to their properties.

If someone believes they are the victim of a scam, they are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement authorities.

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