clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

CONSUMERS WARNED OF LAND SCAM

Utah's booming real estate market is making some people wealthy. The state just wants to make sure they get that way legally.

The Utah Department of Commerce is warning property owners to steer clear of at least five bogus real estate companies - all from Texas - that may be operating fraudulent land-sale scams in Utah.The companies' representatives are believed to have contacted hundreds of Utahns, by mail or by phone, guaranteeing they can find buyers for their land or home immediately - if the property owners will just give them a few hundred dollars up front.

"Frankly, their mode of operation would appear that it's nothing more than a boiler room, and I don't care whether they're a Texas corporation or not," Francine Giani, Utah director of consumer protection, said at a press conference Tuesday. "You don't make a phone call, try to sell land and then try to cut a deal with the people that you're talking to when they told you they can't afford it."

Steven Stewart, director of the state Real Estate Division, said a legitimate company would be willing to wait until property is sold to collect its fee.

"The problem is that these liquidators want the money up front," Stewart said. "If they're not licensed in Utah, and these companies are not, we demand they stop what they're doing."

Scott Dansie, acting director of the Department of Commerce, said only one Utahn, an Iron County woman, has actually lost money to such a scheme. Kim Morris, spokesman for the department, said the unidentified woman lost $250.

Dansie said the companies usually ask for between $200 and $1,000 to pay for "advertising and other marketing costs" but express willingness to take less if the potential victim cannot afford that much.

The five companies go by the following names: Resort Properties Marketing Inc.; Sybarite Enterprises Inc.; American Land Liquidators and National Listing Service Inc.; Land Specialists; and Nationwide Land Liquidators.

The state has ordered all five companies to stop conducting business in the state. Resort Properties Marketing Inc. has ignored the state's request, and department officials Tuesday were seeking a court order to force the company to comply, Dansie said.

Department officials said citizens should ignore cards, letters or phone calls from any of the companies or any other real estate company that asks for money in ad-vance in exchange for selling property.

"We ask consumers to do their homework in advance," Giani said.

If residents receive information they suspect could be connected to such a scam, they are asked to call the Department of Commerce at 530-6747.