On North Fork and Shelter Island, there are very few listings for open land, so when a bunch of low-priced listings pop up, it seems too good to be true.
As it turns out, yes.
Fraudsters have been operating in East End real estate market in recent weeks, Suffolk Times ReportPolice have documented nearly a dozen scams that may have targeted brokers in weekend home communities, so it doesn’t seem suspicious that the “sellers” won’t meet in person.
All unresolved cases are similar. A person contacts a real estate agent to list a vacant lot below market value, verifies his identity with a realistic-looking driver’s license, expresses a desire to close quickly, communicates only by text or email and uses DocuSign.
No one seems to have lost money yet, but in a few cases the scammers have come close to getting their money.
Scammers send emails in the name of the real owner and offer vacant land, since it does not require a tour of the home or exchange of keys.
The Shelter Island police officer leading the investigation told the Suffolk Times that the perpetrators may not be in New York or even in the United States, and that two of the people who spoke to the broker on the phone spoke with foreign accents.
A Shelter Island agent started putting together a listing for a couple she knew, but spotted several red flags, such as the “seller” claiming no research had been done on the property. It didn’t seem like this couple, she knew they were meticulous.
“I think it’s illegal at this point,” Penelope Moore said after a bizarre interaction with the liar. She was able to reach the homeowners by phone and found they were appalled that someone was trying to sell their land.
Increased use of online tools for transactions – and Eastside real estate market – Make such planning easier to deploy.It also appears in similar fashion across the country, such as in new orleans.