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New York landowners: how to protect against fraudsters trying to sell your vacant land

New York vacant land near Georgetown, NY

Recently I came across an FBI warning about fraudsters trying to sell vacant land that they don’t own. That’s right – someone out there might be trying to sell your land in New York.

The scam involves stealing personal information about the landowner, getting fake identification and then posing as the actual owner to sell their land. Often they have a fake ID or somehow get a notary to notarize a deed with your name on it. The deed is sent to the title company, verified, and the fraudster gets paid.

While the FBI has warned about similar real estate and land scams before, it sounds like it has gotten much more advanced.

After learning about the FBI warning, I did some research and found some articles discussing it. Here’s an excerpt from one from the Colorado Board of Realtors warning “The “seller” communicates primarily via text or email and usually requires a mail-out closing. The “seller” signs the deed and has it notarized; it is not clear whether the ‘seller’ is using a fraudulent notary, or whether they are presenting false identification to a legitimate notary.”

Another land buyer experienced this exact scenario – except the notary thankfully saw that the fraudster’s ID didn’t match the name on the deed, so they refused to notarize the deed. In another case, a person was selling a property they had purchased through a title company, which then turned out that the original “seller” was a fraudster with a fake ID.

Thankfully, land in New York (any real estate in New York) is required to be closed through an attorney – hopefully weeding out many would-be fraudsters from even attempting to sell your land, but no state is immune if someone is forging a deed or using a fake ID.

How do you protect yourself from some fraudster trying to sell your vacant land in New York? 

First off, only the person (or people) on the deed / title of the land are the ones who can legally sell it. Even if someone did manage to impersonate, sign/notarize a deed as you, and take money from a buyer for YOUR land, it’s still YOUR land.

However, you can’t prevent someone from trying to sell your land. And since it’s vacant land – you’re most likely not going to be there to see if someone is trying to do some work on it – like clearing some trees, heck, even trying to sell your timber from your land.

The good news is that in New York state, many county clerks have implemented a fraud notification system for real estate, where you can sign up for notifications if any document is recorded that affects your land – I highly encourage you to sign up for this if you own land in New York. This means that if someone was to record a fraudulent deed, you’d be notified. The process is very straightforward, you select your county, add your name and email, then the system sends you an email to verify the email address.

Here is the link: https://searchiqs.com/fraudalert/

The following counties in New York are set up to notify you if a document is recorded against your land:

  • Allegany County, NY
  • Cayuga County, NY
  • Chautauqua County, NY
  • Columbia County, NY
  • Cortland County, NY
  • Delaware County, NY
  • Essex County, NY
  • Franklin County, NY
  • Genessee County, NY
  • Greene County, NY
  • Hamilton County, NY
  • Herkimer County, NY
  • Jefferson County, NY
  • Lewis County, NY
  • Madison County, NY
  • Montgomery County, NY
  • Niagra County, NY
  • Oneida County, NY
  • Orange County, NY
  • Oswego County, NY
  • Otsego County, NY
  • Putnam County, NY
  • Rensselaer County, NY
  • Saratoga County, NY
  • St. Lawrence County, NY
  • Steuben County, NY
  • Ulster County, NY
  • Warren County, NY

Counties in Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut are also using this system – and other systems exist elsewhere.

The notification will typically provide contact information for someone at the county. If someone did record a fraudulent deed for your land, make sure to call the county ASAP. It’s possible they could void the deed, but once something is recorded in the county record, it typically can’t be changed. In this case, it would “cloud the title” – meaning, it impairs the title and puts ownership of the property in question – preventing you from selling your land until you get it cleared.

In order to clear the title, the exact remedy may be different, and it’s very possible you’d need to go through something called “quiet title action” – which is the legal process of determining rightful, legal property ownership.

Unfortunately this can take a few months to complete, and can cost $1,500 up to $5,000. You may be able to get a district attorney or someone at the county to obtain a court order to quiet the title, especially since this would be in connection to criminal activity.

If you’re not able to get an attorney with the county, state or city to help you out with this, we know some good ones across upstate New York, including Madison County, St. Lawrence County and Broome County, NY (who work with real estate and land all over upstate New York) – as well as in Texas and other locations. So, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at hello@haystackland.com if you would like us to share their contact information.

Hopefully this situation never happens to you, but it’s good to be aware of this and stay vigilant – and if it does happen, make sure to take action immediately to deal with it.

About Haystack Land Company

We started Haystack Land Company with the core value of “integrity above all else” in mind, and it reaches into everything that we do. Our goal is to do right by our customers, business partners and providers — and to treat them with the care and respect that every individual deserves.

We buy vacant land, hunting land, recreational land, timberland, farm land — any kind of land, all over Upstate New York, including the Finger Lakes, Catskills, Adirondacks, Central New York, Western New York, the Southern Tier and the North Country. We also buy vacant land in Texas, Alabama, Maine and all over the United States.

If you own vacant land in upstate New York (or any kind of land for that matter) and you’re interested in selling, please contact us to get an offer within 48 hours. 

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