Commentary: Real Estate Scams Are on the Rise as the Housing Market Remains Hot

When Jeff, a retired marketing consultant from Chicago, was closing on his home sale, he received a new set of instructions at the last minute on where to send several thousand dollars in closing expenses. At first blush, the email looked legit with an official-looking logo and professional language specifying the amount owed and itemized expenses. But one thing caught his eye: The email address looked strange. Just to be safe, he called his mortgage broker.

“Don’t do that!” his broker told him in an alarmed voice. It was a scam. If he hit “send,” his closing fees would go to a thief who had been monitoring his emails. “I was a keystroke away from losing thousands of dollars,” Jeff recalled.

As the housing market sizzles across the country – with nearly 6 million homes bought last year – scammers have been finding new ways to tap into this once-secure market. Real estate transactions still demand reams of paperwork and regulations involving lawyers, brokers, title insurance companies and banks, but the fact that much of this work now takes place online gives thieves countless opportunities to exploit vulnerable buyers. Last year, more than 11,000 homeowners were scammed out of more than $220 million in closing funds alone, according to the American Land and Title Association, a trade group that represents professionals who perform property transactions.

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Florida Business Owners Plead Guilty to Fraud in Worker Visa Scheme

Two business owners based in Florida pleaded guilty this week after their fraudulent scheme to hire illegal workers was uncovered.

“According to court documents, Educational World Inc. (Ed World), a visa processing company based in North Point; and Larisa Khariton, 73, and Jon Clark, 71, also of North Point, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Georgia on April 8,” the Department of Justice said in a press release. “The 36-count indictment also contained allegations against Regal Hospitality Solutions LLC (RHS), a Louisiana-based staffing company, and seven current and former RHS employees.”

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Judge Could Rule on Florida’s Vaccine Passport Ban Next Week

Mask on passport Vaccination card on blue background

A Leon County circuit judge could make a ruling on the lawsuit against Florida’s vaccine passport ban as soon as late next week. The lawsuit was filed by Bead Abode Inc., a Sarasota-based craft store where attorneys for the company have argued it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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