The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center(link is external) warns that losses from real estate and rental scams are steadily increasing, reaching more than $396 million last year. Scammers are plotting elaborate schemes to dupe potential buyers, property owners and real estate professionals. One of their latest targets is vacant land.

In this scam, scammers comb through public records and flag vacant parcels of land and properties that don’t have a mortgage or other lien. Then, they’ll pose as the landowner, asking a real estate agent to list the property. The “title pirates,” as they’re being called, use fraudulent or forged deeds and other documents to convey title to a property. Often, these scams go undetected until after the money has been wired to the scammer in the fraudulent sale.

More info with additional details and information about how to stay alert to these types of scams.