Property owners in more than a dozen Kansas counties have received a proposal letter and a purchase agreement offering to buy their vacant real estate, but county officials warn the letter may be an identity theft operation instead.
Some owners received the following letter during the Christmas holiday from a “Tekoa Da Silva” with a return address of Edmond, Oklahoma. This was received from an Ottawa County landowner:
My name is Tekoa Da Silva, and I’m writing you to ask: May I buy your vacant land in Ottawa County? Enclosed is a “Purchase Agreement” which references the specific land parcel and offer amount.
I found your land parcel information while looking at Ottawa County’s public records. There is a website mapping tool called a “GIS” map, if you wish to look at the same record information. It can be found through the County Appraiser’s website.
If you wish to sell, I can provide you with a quick, professional and easy transaction.
Depending on the situation, I can pay all of the associated costs of completing this transaction including back taxes (within reason) and Title/Escrow fees with a local Title Company. The price we agree upon is the amount of the check (or bank wire) you will receive from the Title Company at closing.
If you are interested in selling, please complete the attached “Purchase Agreement” and mail it back to the address above or simply call or text (405) 254-8857.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss this contemplated transaction and/or the sale of any other properties you may own.
Tekoa Da Silva
The attached purchase agreement lists the property code, size and description, address, offer price and contingencies, and a date of February 15th, 2023, after which the offer will be withdrawn.
Interviewed in the Hays Post, Ottawa County Sheriff Russ Thornton says he may have made contact with the purported “buyer”:
“I called and spoke with Mr. Da Silva or someone claiming to be him, regarding the letters. I notified Edmond City PD about Mr. Da Silva and the activity we are dealing with here in our County.”
Sheriff Thornton adds a warning to landowners statewide:
“First, Mr. Da Silva does not have the funds to purchase your ground at the low offer he gave or any offer, to be honest. He admitted this to me over the phone. Second, the “Purchase Agreement Form” does not appear to be a legitimate document and would not be legally binding. Third, the address that he has on the letter and the purchase agreement is only a PO Box in Edmond OK; it is not an actual business address.
“Regardless of whether the document is legal or not, Mr. Da Silva is asking for personal information that you should never give freely to people. The world we live in today is not as honest as it once was. This is not how normal business is conducted; why would someone want to purchase something sight unseen? We will do everything we can at our office to protect our citizens who aren’t as familiar with these scams. We are asking for family and friends who can help educate and protect others from this kind of activity to do so.”
Leavenworth County Recorder of Deeds TerriLois Mashburn says her office has joined the investigation after being contacted by property owners in her county. She has a simple message for landowners who receive a similar proposal to avoid identity theft:
“THROW IT AWAY. Never respond ‘yes’ on any phone call question if you did not initiate the call. Answer ‘take me off your call-back list’ and hang up”.
She says her office offers “Property Fraud Alert,” a free, confidential service that will notify landowners of suspicious activity regarding their real estate records.
Mashburn says in addition to her county, others affected so far include Anderson, Bourbon, Doniphan, Decatur, Gove, Linn, Mitchell, Ottawa, Pawnee, Rice, and Shawnee.
Mashburn adds cyber criminals also pose as sellers of properties in a similar fraudulent scheme and offers this warning:
“Stay paranoid because they really are trying to steal your property!”