Real Estate Attorney with THE ZARETSKY LAW GROUP - Board Certified Real Estate Atty and AUTOMATED LAND TITLE COMPANY

Fraud - Losing your home - Identity Theft - these are all scary words and for good reason.

It has been 12 years since I wrote my first blog on fraudulent deeds and what I wrote then still is true today.  It was my most read article over the past 12 years.  Today, technology and services offered by the various public recording offices can be used to "push" notices to you if your name has appeared in any new filing in the Public Records of a county in which you own property.  I urge everyone to sign up for this service.  It can save you a ton of aggrevation and money and alert you to theft of your identity and your real estate!  Typically the service is called "property fraud alert" and you can sign up at your county clerk's website.  For example, here in Palm Beach County you can sign up HERE. Sign up NOW!

Now back to the story - a story in various forms that we have seen year after year:.......

It is a day past Halloween, but here is a scary TRUE story:

My office is presently working on a case that is so prevalent that I thought posting it on my blog would be helpful.  The matter involves a single person who bought a home 5 years ago. 

It is a nice house, in a great community.  He bought is for investment, paying about $400,000 and getting an 80% mortgage.  It is his second home in South Florida, and his other home is about 5 miles away, but that is seldom used as he works in another state.

He put a renter into the house, using an established Realtor for find her.  The renter paid her rent regularly without any problem every month.  About one year into the lease, the homeowner paid off the mortgage with extra cash he earned.  He also extended the lease for the renter, using the Realtor for the paperwork.

The renter apparently had a friend with whom (we would later learn) lived in a previous house with her.  Shortly after the extension to the lease was executed, the renter created a quit claim deed from the owner to herself, and recorded it for nominal consideration.  About 3 months later she sold the house to her friend for $500,000.  Her friend took out a conventional mortgage for 80% and the renter took back a purchase money mortgage in 2nd position, which covered most of the remaining cash to close.

The owner was alerted to the deeds when his Realtor called him because she was just updating her files and checked online for his real estate taxes - seeing the tax collector was showing the wrong owner for the property.  She went to the property and it was vacant. 

No mortgage payments were ever made on the home by the "new" purchaser.

After more than two years of litigation, the Quiet Title case is going to court.  The real owner has not had title to the home and missed the ability to sell it in the right market.  Plus he has the legal expenses associated with the recovery of title of the house. Fortunately the title underwriter paid off the fraudulently acquired mortgage, so we only have to get rid of the 2nd mortgage and the fraudulent deed and the deed subsequent to it.

The perpetrators are no where to be found.

Of course a glaring question is the notary on the Quit Claim Deed - we are gathering evidence that should put that person out of business - or at least authenticate the claim on the insurance bond (which is limited to a nominal amount).  This is a primary example for notary publics to keep a log of what they notarize along with copies of identification of the signing parties for every transaction.  It is a HUGE pain, but is there a better way?

I don't know the moral of this story.  I guess it is .... IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU (or your clients)!

If anyone has a similar story to relate - please share it!

Copyright 2007 / 2019 Richard P. Zaretsky, Esq.

 Be sure to contact your own attorney for your state laws, and always consult your own attorney on any legal decision you need to make.  This article is for information purposes and is not specific advice to any one reader.

Richard Zaretsky, Esq., ZARETSKY LAW GROUP. ATTORNEYS AT LAW, 1615 FORUM PLACE, SUITE 3A, WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA 33401, PHONE 561 689 6660  RPZ@ZARETSKYLAW.COM  - FLORIDA BAR BOARD CERTIFIED IN REAL ESTATE LAW - We assist Brokers and Sellers with Short Sales and Modifications and Consult with Brokers and Sellers Nationwide!  New Website

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Gabe Sanders 02/27/2019 10:00 PM
  2. Elyse Berman, PA 02/28/2019 05:05 PM
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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Richard- this is scary. I know one thing, I would definitely look into the Property Fraud Alert!!!  These scammers find all kinds of ways to take what isn't theirs. 

Feb 16, 2019 05:02 PM #1
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


                             thank you Richard!

Feb 16, 2019 06:52 PM #2
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

This is just as scary now as it was back then.  I will need to see if there's an alert for Martin County.

Feb 17, 2019 05:34 AM #3
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

There is always a new scam on the horizon so we all have to stay aware. You are right...It can happen to any of us. 

Feb 17, 2019 05:53 AM #4
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Oh my gosh, that is a scary story. I'm happy to report we have no similar story to share.

Feb 17, 2019 07:11 AM #5
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

Excellent post...we have never had our identities stolen in all the senses of the word...but have had our credit cards compromised regularly !

Feb 17, 2019 07:31 AM #6
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

We had some similar stories here in PA locally where properties were being sold by people who did not own them, like this example they had filed deeds with the courthouse changing ownership. The police caught up with them, but several homeowners lost rights to their properties.

Feb 17, 2019 08:15 AM #7
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Richard -  that is scary.  I am going to tak your advice and sign up for property fraud alerts on my houses.

Feb 18, 2019 04:16 AM #8
Graziella Bruner
NCS Premier Real Estate - Detroit, MI
Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

That is scary and I'm always puzzled to how people can just think up of a scam.  What is wrong with people today?  I will check into the Property Fraud Alert.  Thanks for sharing.

Feb 18, 2019 06:21 AM #9
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Scary stuff. Our County is always 15 years behind the times, but I'll check to see if they have such a thing as a fraud alert.

Many years ago I sold a home to a young couple from out of the area. A few years later I heard through the small town grapevine that they were splitting up. I didn't think much about it until the day the wife and her attorney stopped by my office to ask me to notarize something the husband had signed.

When I said no - not without him present - she argued that I knew his signature so it was fine.

They went away mad.

Feb 18, 2019 08:16 PM #10
Richard Zaretsky
THE ZARETSKY LAW GROUP - Board Certified Real Estate Atty and AUTOMATED LAND TITLE COMPANY - West Palm Beach, FL
Florida Real Estate Attorney

Don't forget to sign up for the notifications from your county clerk!

Feb 19, 2019 08:33 AM #11
Nancy Holloway

We have automatic notification by mail any time something is recorded against a property in Orange County, CA.

Feb 19, 2019 03:50 PM #12
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Wow, Richard, that is a scary story. Thanks for the warning. I've not heard of this happening but I guess it doesn't surprise me!


Feb 19, 2019 05:06 PM #13
Richard Zaretsky
THE ZARETSKY LAW GROUP - Board Certified Real Estate Atty and AUTOMATED LAND TITLE COMPANY - West Palm Beach, FL
Florida Real Estate Attorney

Jeff - here in Florida its a big deal!!!  Our title underwriters always include this topic in their seminars and newsletters.

Feb 20, 2019 05:46 AM #14
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Very much harder to do in NC! All deeds must be handled by an attorney! All RE transactions have to have input from an attorney 

Feb 20, 2019 11:01 PM #15
Elyse Berman, PA
Best Connections Realty, Inc. - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824 CRS, ABR, GRI,ePR

Thank you for this, Richard.  What will they think of next?  I just signed up and will pass your information along.

Feb 28, 2019 05:03 PM #16
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