There’s a fast-growing scam that can deprive legal homeowners of their ownership, and possibly wreak havoc with their credit score. The FBI calls it the fastest growing white collar crime and it is happening all over the country. The gist of it is, someone goes to the Recorder of Deeds office and files fraudulent papers against your property that either keeps you from being able to sell your property, puts a lien on your property, or transfers the ownership outright. If the ownership is transferred, the scammers often take out a mortgage on the property and disappear. This fraud scenario has been called “paper terrorism.” Here is a video from the Cook County Recorder that does a good job of explaining the issue and what you can do to keep it from happening to you, or someone you care about.
Fortunately, the local Recorders of Deeds are very aware of this practice and are taking steps to help nip this sort of scam in the bud (it can’t be prevented entirely.) You can register with your Recorder’s office or at http://propertyfraudalert.com (for Cook, McHenry, and DuPage Counties locally, and some other counties nationwide) to receive an email or postal mail alert any time someone files a document referencing your home’s Property Identification Number (PIN.) You will know if the filing was done by ,or with your knowledge, and if it wasn’t, you should start by contacting whatever fraud division your county’s recorder refers you to. If you need me to look up your PIN number, just call or email me.
This crime is often perpetrated against the elderly (or their estates), against people who have equity in their homes, on summer/winter homes, and commonly, on vacant land. If you know anyone who may be a likely victim, please share this information with them and help them get registered with their Recorder of Deeds if possible. Everyone should register ALL of their properties. I have, and I urge you to do so too. Like Identity Theft, this is a crime that causes the victim much suffering and expense to correct. It is better prevented than experienced.
A related, but less injurious scam that is also becoming increasingly common is homeowners receiving official-looking solicitations from scam artists offering to sell them a copy of their deed at a very inflated price, and implying that the homeowner must do so immediately. Homeowners should have received a copy of their deed with their closing or mortgage papers. There is a copy filed with your County Recorder of Deeds and you can get a copy at any time for just a few dollars. If you receive one of these letters, you should ignore it. Avoid sending money, credit card numbers, or your personal information that could be used to steal your identity to any person or company that is unknown to you.
Handy Links to Local Recorders' Offices:
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