Bulletin: NY000676

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Bulletin: NY000676

Bulletin Document
Date: November 03, 2022
To: All New York State Agents, Office Counsel, and Managers
RE: UNDERWRITING – Fraudulent Transactions Involving Vacant Properties

We have recently become aware of an increase in fraudulent transactions involving vacant properties. These transactions typically (but not always) involve a seller that does not have a personal relationship to any real estate agent, title company, or attorney and only communicates by phone, text, or email. Although it was common to see the Seller claim to be out of the United States, we are now seeing instances where the Seller claims to be located in the United States. Some red flags to look out for are:

  • No outstanding mortgages - free and clear property;
  • Vacant land;
  • Seller in a rush to close;
  • Real estate agent never meets with principals and is hired by e-mail;
  • Sale documents are e-mailed to seller, no in-person closing or use of remote notarization;
  • Typographical errors and non-matching signatures common;
  • Passport/ID appears suspect with use of cut and pasted photos;
  • Notary acknowledgments are suspect and may claim to be from US Embassy or an attorney/notary in foreign country;
  • Purported owner is not currently located at the owner’s address listed in the county’s tax records;
  • Wiring instructions utilize banks not located in the owner’s country of residence (as shown in county’s tax records) and/or list third party payee/account owner;
  • Multiple foreign countries involved for one party (e.g., seller in one place, documents notarized in another, wire going to another country);
  • Documents sent to title company already executed without prior inquiry to title company about how they need to be completed and acknowledged.

We have further details on Virtual Underwriter and can be found here: Bulletin: SLS2022004 and Bulletin: SLS2021007. Please make sure you and your staff are familiar with these bulletins.

In the event you have any questions regarding the above, please contact Stewart Title Legal Department at 212-922-0050 and speak with any Underwriting Counsel.

For on-line viewing of this and other bulletins, please log onto www.vuwriter.com

THIS BULLETIN IS FURNISHED TO INFORM YOU OF CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS. AS A REMINDER, YOU ARE CHARGED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENT ON VIRTUAL UNDERWRITER  AS IT EXISTS FROM TIME TO TIME AS IT APPLIES TO YOU, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. OUR UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS DO NOT AUTHORIZE OUR ISSUING AGENTS TO ENGAGE IN SETTLEMENTS OR CLOSINGS ON BEHALF OF STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY. THIS BULLETIN IS NOT INTENDED TO DIRECT YOUR ESCROW OR SETTLEMENT PRACTICES OR TO CHANGE PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS. CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY, OR NONPUBLIC PERSONAL INFORMATION SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED OR DISSEMINATED EXCEPT AS ALLOWED BY LAW. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW OR REGULATION IMPOSES ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS, YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO COMPLY WITH THOSE REQUIREMENTS.


References

Bulletins Replaced:
  • None
Related Bulletins:
Underwriting Manual:
  • None
Exceptions Manual:
  • None
Forms:
  • None