Written by: Melissa Seamon
Property Fraud Scam Description and Prevention Tips
According to the FBI, property fraud is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes in the United States.
Property fraud is the recording of a fraudulent document with the county register of deeds making it appear your home or land has been transferred to the ownership of someone else.
A property fraud scam looks something like this:
1. A con artist finds a house to steal.
2. Next, the con artist assumes your identity by culling information found online about you.
3. Using your identity, the con artist creates a fake ID and Social Security card, etc.
4. The con artist then obtains forms (at an office supply store or online) that transfer property.
5. Next, the con artist forges your signature on the forms and files the forms with the proper authorities at the local county register of deeds office.
6. Now that your house is fraudulently titled in the con artist’s name, he can use your home equity to take out numerous loans and leave you in a mountain of debt and legal bills to get your property back.
How can you prevent your house or property from getting stolen?
1. Check the titles of all deeds, mortgages, or liens on your property to ensure they are accurate.
2. Have you used different versions of your name on any property (i.e. do you go by a middle name or have you used different middle initials in the past)? Make sure all versions of your name are attached to your records.
3. If you receive a payment book or information from a mortgage company that’s not yours, whether your name is on the envelope or not, don’t just throw it away. Open it and follow up with the company that sent it. Explain that you received an unsolicited payment book and find out why it was sent.
4. Do you go out of town for any length of time? Make sure your mail is not piling up and leaving obvious signs that you’re not home. Also, check with your local police department to inquire if they will check on your home while you’re away. This is a service that some police departments provide.
5. From time to time, check all information pertaining to your house through your county register of deeds office. If you see any paperwork you don’t recognize or any signature that is not yours, investigate!
6. Register your name at www.propertyfraudalert.com. This is a free service currently available in many counties all over the United States. Locally, Saginaw County is on the list, but Bay and Midland counties are not.
7. A service called “Title Lock” is available to protect your deed. You can read more and sign up at www.hometitlelock.com. (There is a cost.)
For more information, contact your local township office or county register of deeds office or check out the following website: