Land Scams are fraudulent schemes carried out by dishonest people, organizations, or even businesses in an effort to defraud the public of money or other valuables. Many people think they are too smart to be conned, but con artists are constantly developing new and clever techniques to get what they want.

Real estate scams can take many different forms, including rental and mortgage scams. Sometimes dishonest lenders or brokers spread false information to trick naïve borrowers into giving them money.

Mortgage fraud for example occurs each time information is falsified on a home loan application.

Types of Real Estate Scams in Kenya

Fraudulent Property Listings
When you see a property in your area that appeals to you, upon inquiry, the owner says you must pay a fee in order to view the property, that is most likely a fraudulent listing. Scammers often use websites, social media channels, and other platforms where potential buyers may be to post fake listings. The images they use may be from actual listings, but their offers are not.

Title Deed Scams
This is a typical scam that many people fall for, especially first-time land buyers. If you’ve ever purchased land, you are aware of the level of due diligence you need to obtain an authentic title deed in Kenya. Some sellers take advantage of this to dupe innocent buyers. After purchasing the land, you learn that you and five other people share the same title deed after it is too late. When buying any type of property, thorough due diligence is necessary. To ensure that you are not a victim of a scam, make certain that you use the services of an accredited and qualified lawyer

Property Investment Scams
The goal of con artists is to lure innocent people into investing in them. After enrolling, investors are forced to purchase soon-to-be-built real estate developments at steep discounts. The organizers vanish with the investors’ money after the purchase, and the investors later learn the property they purchased was not even for that company.

Rental Scams
The rental industry is no exception to scammers, tenants can be victims as well. Prospective tenants are accustomed to having their personal information prepared for applications, anticipating questions, and having to pay a deposit. You can run into a sketchy “agent” who claims to have a house ready for you to move into, but all he needs is money from you to “keep” it for you.

Deposit Scams
With the false house pictures they provide in the adverts, the scammers deceive customers by emphasizing that the house is furnished and other distinguishing aspects. After that, they typically vanish with the deposit and first month’s rent they demanded from the victim. This dishonest tactic affects a lot of people. Working with reputable businesses is crucial if you want to safeguard yourself against these and other fraudulent practices.
How Do You Know You’re Getting Conned When Buying Land?
You must have heard stories of innocent Kenyans who have lost their money to people claiming to sell cheap plots at prime locations.
It’s even one of the reasons many people fear trusting companies that are doing legitimate business selling land.

Below are some of the top tricks cons use to swindle you out of your money.

The Seller Doesn’t Want You to View the Land
You’ve been dreaming about what your future home will look like in terms of scenery and where you want to build. You then find the perfect piece of land and start envisioning your dream home.

But the seller won’t let you view the property to help you make an informed decision. After numerously, the seller will always find a way to tell you why you can’t go and keep dodging you.

Now, if the deal sounds too good, and you are desperate to buy that piece of land, don’t be tempted to pay for it thinking you could be missing out on an offer.

We always advise people not to pay for anything they have not seen. You must have heard of the phrase “paying for air” which means paying for what you haven’t seen.

Inconsistent Information on the Ad
If you see someone selling land online and the details they share are not the same when you inquire further or even when you meet in person, that’s a red flag. How is it that the person who is selling doesn’t know the exact location of the plot?

Worse still is when you ask for more information about the seller to verify their credentials, and they are not in a position to provide documentation. For instance, you could ask about their website and social media profiles and whether they have an office (if it’s a company).

If it’s a private seller, you can always ask for their original ID and a title deed of the land they are selling to carry out a title deed search through Ardhisasa.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, get a lawyer to do it. They have experience doing background checks and due diligence when buying a piece of land or any property.

Wouldn’t you rather invest Kshs 40,000 to pay a lawyer than lose Kshs 500,000 to a con?

Fake Clients During a Viewing
This method of conning involves several people so you have to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.
Here is how it happens; you make plans with the seller to view the property. They’ll even organize a tour van to take other people to see the land.

They entice you with free transportation and lunch. Who wouldn’t want to save some money along the process?
You go on the trip with the other potential buyers and get to the destination. Now, not all the people in the van are cons. They have to make the trip look as real as possible. And they are probably targeting other innocent buyers.

But, it’s hard to tell who is honest and who is not. This is where your intelligence should kick in. So, the “seller” will be in character and sell you the piece of land.

They will explain why you should invest in that particular area, other potential buildings that will come up and end up convincing you to the point where you feel no doubt.

Some cons will even go to the extent of showing you a map to give you an idea of how big or small the land will be. But when you pay attention to the actual size you are looking at, you realize the map doesn’t make sense at all.

Or if the property doesn’t have boundary marks. They could be showing you someone else’s property.
A smart buyer would talk to the other people in the tour, ask questions and if something doesn’t make sense think twice.

Then, on a separate day, visit the same land on your own or with a friend and ask the neighbours more about it. Most times, neighbours will know who owns the property and if it’s up for sale.

They’re the best people to give you insights into the location you want to buy. A con won’t have the time to go and “train” all the neighbours to lie to you.

The Seller Can’t Give the Title Deed
It is not uncommon for landowners to have middlemen help them sell their land. However, you’re getting conned if the seller won’t give you a title deed to carry out a land search, which is the only way you can tell the rightful owner of the land. High chances are they don’t have it either.

Another scenario would be when the owner gets into an agreement with the seller. The seller pays a deposit to the owner and promises to sell the land. Once it’s sold, they will give the seller the remaining amount.

The problem with this arrangement is that the seller sells and goes to buy another one with that money and never gives the owner the remainder. This means the seller will never have the title deed; meaning, they can’t give it to you either.

Buying Shares in a Company and Getting Land at a Discount
It’s so heartbreaking when companies play around with people’s emotions and money. We’ve heard of companies that went the extra mile to entice potential buyers with discount prices only for them to go down and run away with people’s investments.

A company may look reputable however, it is up to you to find out more about the said company. Do they have offices? Who are their directors? Is the company registered and how long has it been in existence?

You will hear some say they are briefcase companies; they don’t have offices or company identification. Not all of them are cons but you have to be very careful to avoid getting conned.

Paying to Personal Accounts
Once you feel satisfied with the land and confirm that all the other documents are good, comes the payment part. But wait, the seller wants you to make a payment to their personal account. Red flag!

A credible seller will give you the payment details of the owner of the land. If something ever happens to the seller, it’s going to be difficult to prove that you paid for the land to the rightful owner.

If you’re working with a company that sells land, they will give you their bank details to make the transfer. Without following the right payment procedure, you could end up undoing all the good work you’ve done to get to this point.

Are You a First Time Land Buyer?
If you are not sure about something, get professional advice from a lawyer. The process will be much easier, faster and less stressful when buying land.
Follow your gut. It’s always right. Along the way, if something doesn’t sit right with you, investigate it. And don’t be afraid to continue searching.
Listen to people who have successfully bought land before. They know what they’re talking about.
Don’t pay for anything you have not seen.
Always visit the place where the land you want to buy is located.
Do your due diligence before parting ways with your money.
All the best in your search and remember if the deal sounds too good, think twice.