Cases of scammers who sell property they do not own have increased in the last three years according to Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB). Through an investigation the Bureau carried out between 2019 and 2021, the cases of suspects of fraud, forgery, falsification and use of forged documents in selling houses and land increased from 57 in 2019 to 112 in 2021. The number of suspects has also doubled from 87 to 161 in the same period. In total, 264 cases and 412 suspects have been recorded during the same timeframe. According to Thierry B. Murangira, the Spokesperson of RIB, the crimes were flamed by some of the victims who do not double-check before buying a property. He said such scams are pulled off by criminal enterprises which are normally made up of different people each having a specific task and will make sure the victim does not know they know each other. The suspects also map out properties that are on the market before the move to look for their victims, mostly people eager to acquire property, in most cases at lower than the market price. He noted that some pretend to be brokers who link the so-called owner of the property to the buyer, adding that others pretend to be the owners of the property (husband and wife). According to him, the scammers will also have someone who pretends to be a notary and another one who will play the role of local leader (mostly at village level). They then connive to forge documents like National IDs and match them with the information concerning certification of property ownership. “They also ask the buyer to pay an upfront of 50 per cent of the price they have agreed upon, before moving to ‘change ownership’ and also create a sense of urgency to convince the buyer that they urgently need the money, for instance claiming to have a sick child who must undergo an expensive surgery,” he said. Murangira also revealed that they try to make sure the transaction takes a short time possible. Think twice before buying According to Murangira, citizens should think twice before buying a property, dial *651# and follow the prompts to get information about ownership of any land, the size and what that land was dedicated to and also see if it does not have caveat due to a dispute. He also urged people to approach land services in case they have doubt on a property and to avoid paying before investigating about the property they are going to buy. Brokers speak out Joseph Rutihomba, Chairman of Rwanda Real Estate Brokerage (RWAREB) said that some people do scamming because they need to benefit quickly, adding that there are also some ruling levels, like in land and local government, that are directly involved and haven’t monitored well what happens in property selling. He noted that there are also unskilled and unprofessional brokers in the career who do not know the regulations well and are not even legally recognized. “Brokerage is a service that is fully regulated by Rwanda Development Board and it has known registered members,” he said. He urged prospective property buyers to first identify a local leader in the area where the property is located, the real owner of the property and also use online tools to get information on the property. According to him, they should also work with established real estate companies that have offices and are registered. What the laws say According to Article 174 on fraud, any person convicted are liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than three years, and a fine of not less than three million Rwandan francs and not more than five million Rwandan francs. Article 276 on Forgery, falsification and use of forged documents states that upon conviction, a person is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years but not more than seven years and a fine of not less than three million Rwandan francs and not more than five million Rwandan francs or only one of these penalties. According to Article 224 about formation of or joining a criminal association, any person who forms a criminal association regardless of number of its members or its duration to commit offences against persons or their property, who aids in its formation, who is its leader, who is its organiser, who joins, who encourages or forces others to join, commits an offence. Upon conviction, they are liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and not more than ten years.