The growing fraudulent activities in the world at large particularly in Nigeria are consistently putting people in perpetual fear.
The rate at which fraudsters popularly known as 419 (Nigeria’s Criminal Code) sell people’s property without owners’ knowledge is alarming and creates fear amongst property owners and residents.
One could wonder how this is possible when the real owner has the original title document to his or her property, the truth remains that these 419 scammers have ways of producing fake and look-alike titles to deceive unsuspecting victims.
Hence, many property owners across the country resolved to place the inscription “This property is not for sale, beware of 419”.
For emphasis and seriousness on this matter, some landlords go as far as using red paint to write on their property walls. Regrettably, despite the paintings and writings to assuage the populace of the authentic owner of the property, so many people still fall prey to the tactics of 419 scammers.
There are several ways to detect 419 scammers.
- When someone approaches you to sell a piece of land or landed property, try as much as possible to ask for pictures of the property. Of course! They will usually have pictures to show to you but insist on interior pictures, that’s where they will most likely come short unless the scammer is from the family of the property owner. Be very observant to see their expression or response, if it’s staggering then it’s a good sign to opt out before it’s too late.
- Ask for the title document of the property: Well, it’s possible to forge a title so they could have one, however, make sure to collect a copy of the title and promise to consult your lawyer to confirm the authenticity, look firmly into their eyes to observe their countenance and be sure of sighting their level of confidence. If they try to retrieve the document from you, please run!
- If upon asking for title you were given a C of O or Deed of Assignment, kindly request the Survey Plan of the property and make sure to identify the name, address, size of the land and survey No. land allocation papers are not admissible at this time. Request to meet the owner of the property to negotiate on price and make sure the meeting is held the same day or the next day to prevent or frustrate the scammer from arranging a fake landlord. Their expression and response will give a clear signal of their motive.
- Request to inspect the property including every facility therein, after the inspection, do a quick confirmation of the owner and property status by asking neighbours or people living around the property. You can start by questioning several security men and shop owners around, do this the next day and be sure to record your findings.
- Do a proper search at the land registry to confirm that the title is authentic. The search will show you historical reports on sales or transfer transactions that have taken place on the property from inception. This will further reveal the real owner of the property.
- Request for a Complimentary card and office address of the agent and try to see if he’ll provide it. If he does, make sure you visit the address uninformed. It will help you know whether it’s a real address or a fictitious one.
- Quick Sale Syndrome: If the agent starts giving you signals to seal the transaction immediately or conclude within a few days, just know he’s a scammer, sometimes they will give the impression that so many people are in the queue for the same property, that they are only trying to make you pay without due diligence, run!
- One Man Show: Before you buy that house you must insist on seeing the landlord’s lawyer, when a lawyer is presented make sure you do a proper investigation. The best way around this is to check the State Bar Association Directory or use the Yelp Review to call up his or her profile. You will surely have a lead as to his or her legitimacy.
- Payments By Installment: Never make payments by instalment for a property you’re not certain of unless it’s coming from a reputable company, registered and fully deals in real estate, the company must not be less than 5 years old and should have a track record such that will be keen on protecting its reputation. Also, it enables you to sue whenever there’s foul play.