Back in the ’60s and ’70s, land sale scams proliferated, and a lot of people ended up buying useless parcels of swampland in Florida. You’ll still come across an occasional reference to someone buying swampland in sitcoms and movies, especially as a way to establish that an older character is gullible or tends to fall for get-rich-quick schemes. It has become such a part of the collective subconscious that it’s turned into a joke.
However, today these scams have seen a resurgence, with online marketplaces such as eBay being the new venue of choice for con artists. In the United States, Florida, Texas and Arizona are the most frequent sites chosen for such scams, but they can happen in other places.
The Attorney General of Florida has published some tips for avoiding this type of fraud, and these apply pretty much anywhere:
- View the property. Do not buy land over the phone or by way of the mail. Talk to residents who live in the area.
- Look into the amount of all fees, such as real estate taxes, or community assessment fees.
- Meet with real estate agents in the area to find out the market for this property. Ask the agent how long it would take to sell the property if need be.
- Check with the county planning office to learn of plans for the land or property near this area that may affect land value. It would be important to know if an airport or dump is scheduled to be built in the future.
- If the land is undeveloped, know who will be responsible for the costs of building roads, utilities or sewers.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sing us off, George…
This item from Arizona sort of blew my mind. I’d never even thought of a setup like this before, and I read about fraud every day.
It’s a scam that targets chain businesses like fast food restaurants and convenience stores. It starts with a phone call to the store late in the evening from someone who claims to be from upper management in the company.
The victim store is told that there was an incident earlier in the day; for example, a customer was injured or food poisoned. To avoid a lawsuit, they are instructed to give a bag of money (and sometimes, cases of food) to a taxi driver waiting outside.
Of course, the caller is just a thief, and the driver usually isn’t even in on the scam; he just had instructions to make a delivery.
First, if you’re an employee at a chain business, know this: legal matters are not settled with bags of money handed to taxi drivers. If someone is food poisoned or injured at a store or restaurant, there is an official, documented process by which such things are handled.
Second, if you’re an employee, also know this: if someone who claims to represent upper management calls, you need to verify who they are. Never give out personal information or store information to someone just because they claim to be an executive in the company. Anyone can claim to be anyone on the phone.
Finally, if you’re one of those executives, and you called one of your stores requesting information that might be considered sensitive, ask yourself this: how would you react to an employee who refused to give out information without a way to verify your identity? Would you become angry? Would you fire them on the spot? Or would you see that this is exactly the kind of person you want working for you?
Just something to consider.