What is Property-Related Fraud?
Property-related fraud has increased drastically in Florida over the last two years. We have blogged on this topic before here and here and have provided some advice on things that real estate professionals and property owners should watch out for to avoid becoming the victim of some schemes. However, it is not always possible to prevent this type of fraud. The Florida Statutes (specifically, Fla. Stat. 695.26) require County recording offices to accept documents for recording if they meet certain criteria. There is simply nothing that a property owner can do to stop the fact that a fraudster is allowed by law to record documents that may affect title.
How Do I Protect Myself Against Fraudulent Filing?
Does that mean that any problems caused by a fraudulent filing cannot be fixed? Of course not. But there is a cost for doing so, and importantly, the process for fixing the fraud may take time that you don’t have.
But all is not lost! Many county court clerks have implemented notification systems designed to alert property owners of potentially fraudulent transactions regarding their property. While these systems cannot prevent the filing of documents that may impact property, they give a property owner rapid notification when any document is recorded that affects a parcel of property that they own. If something is amiss, an owner can then take immediate action to remedy the fraud.
The fraud alert systems are easy to sign up for … they typically require a name and email address for notifications-links to the fraud alert systems in the counties where Berlin Patten Ebling has offices are listed below.
What Happens If I Receive a Notification From Fraud Alert?
If you receive a notification that a potentially fraudulent instrument has been recorded, it is imperative to act fast. Contacting local law enforcement and the FBI to report the issue is a great start. They may be able to criminally charge and prosecute any fraudsters that were unsophisticated enough to get caught. But law enforcement isn’t equipped to take the steps needed to clear any cloud on title that a fraudster creates. Instead, you’d likely need to hire an attorney to bring a lawsuit to eliminate the cloud on title. Effective options are available to do that, but they all take time (which you may not have if you are in the midst of a transaction). So, the faster you contact an attorney to begin working on the issue, the quicker they can resolve it In the end, that is the greatest benefit that the fraud alert services provide – they alert you to the existence of a problem quickly so that you can hopefully begin working to cure it before it impacts your use of your property (or even prevents its sale!). If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your local real estate attorney.
Fraud Alert Links