Have you ever heard the story about the con man who sold the Eiffel Tower to an unsuspecting buyer? This is an extreme example of a phantom sale – or a sale of real estate or property that the seller has no legal authority to sell. When it came time for the victim of the Eiffel Tower con to claim his “property” the French government stepped and let him know that he did not in fact, own their national monument.
Most phantom sale situations are not nearly as dramatic, but they can be devastating to the victims. Often, the purchaser is sold a property with falsified documents. The fraudulent seller pockets the proceeds, and the purchaser is left with a mortgage on a property th]ey do not lawfully own.
This scam is often carried out on properties that are unoccupied or abandoned, so if you are considering purchasing a property that has no inhabitants, take extra care and have an attorney review the deed and other documentations of sale.
Here is a list of red flags that you should be on high alert for:
· Non-matching addresses within the documentation
· Documents that include deletions or alterations
· Numbers in documents that do not reflect standard kerning (numbers that look squeezed into a space they do not belong in)
· Verifications that are completed the same day that they were ordered
· Verifications that are completed on a weekend or holiday
· Different handwriting types and styles within the document.
If you are unsure about the legality of a sale you are pursuing, then consult with a real estate attorney to ensure that your assets are protected.