Scammer tries to sell Oakland property he didn't own

A "for sale by owner" sign stands outside a home in LaSalle, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, June 7, 2013. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alameda County officials are warning of a scheme where fraudsters are impersonating the owners of vacant properties to sell them at a discount.

District Attorney Pamela Price highlighted a case where a real estate agent was duped into working on the sale of a vacant lot in an Oakland neighborhood, valued at $1.1 million, for a discounted price of $560,000.

Officials said the fraudster contacted the realtor by phone, claiming to be dying of cancer at a treatment facility in Texas and needing to sell the Oakland property quickly to spare his wife.


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The man claimed he couldn't meet the realtor in-person and conducted all business over the phone and through email.

The scheme unraveled 11 days before escrow closed when the escrow officer investigated the rightful owners' whereabouts and contacted them.

The owners of the vacant lot denied any intention to sell their property, and the transaction was canceled, county officials said.

The Alameda County Real Estate Fraud Unit said this scheme has been carried out in other states and advised buyers to be cautious when purchasing an undeveloped property.

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"If you own vacant land in Alameda County, please be aware of this scam and keep an eye on the title of your property," said Price.

Landowners can search their property’s address on any real estate website or search engine to see if an unauthorized listing appears for their property.