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Deed Fraud Can Happen to You!

Real Estate Agent with Dirt Road Real Estate SA676002000

Deed fraud can happen to you as the rightful owner of real estate property and you may not even know the fraud happened until it is too late. Unfortunately, there are no national statistics on deed fraud or what is also known as title theft.  However, the FBI’s 2023 Internet Crime report tracked 9,521 complaints of cyber related real estate and rental fraud with losses exceeding more than $145 million. (Source New York Post) 

Per an October 2023 survey conducted by CertifID, 54% of real estate professionals reported having experienced at least one seller impersonation fraud attempt within the last six months. Additionally, 77% of those same professional indicated to have seen an increase in seller impersonation fraud attempts within the past six months. (Source: American Land Title Association - ATLA)

Deed fraud is sometimes connected to squatters who have nefariously changed the address of the tax bill or created fraudulent documents such as leases allowing adverse possession of the property. Then there are those entities who sell properties without using a title firm or a false title firm and securing fake title insurance.

To prevent deed fraud begins by checking with your local city or county assessor and/or recorder to confirm your property, the deed, is still in your name with the correct addresses. This checking should be conducted on a regular basis especially if:

  • The property is owned free and cleared (no mortgage or loan)
  • The property is vacant land
  • The owners are elderly  
  • The owners  are investors
  • The property has never been physically visited which may also have squatters on the vacant land who may seek adverse possession depending upon the state's laws

Next, learn if your local government officials have any programs in place for deed fraud protection. Here in Mohave County, AZ, the county assessor established the Assessor’s Address Protection Program. This program requires legal photo identification with current property address along with address for the mailing of the tax bills. Then a fingerprint is taken and all documents are notarized. There is a one time fee of $50.00.  Now your address is locked and cannot be changed without showing proof.

Another solution when selling or buying real estate from a private individual(s) or other entities often listed as For Sale By Owner is to insist on going through a legitimate title agency.  Do your research to make sure the title agency actually exists. Check with the Better Business Bureau if in doubt or the state registration for corporate entities.

Now is the time to be proactive, sign up for deed fraud protection so you are not a victim to deed fraud.

#deedfraud #titletheft #realestate #realestateinvestor #property #homeownership #realestatebuyers #realestateseller #deedfraudprotection

Feature Photo Courtesy of Leanne M Smith

Any reproduction of Leanne M Smith’s blog for use by any AI or GAI, distribution or reproduction including but not limited to electronic newsletters e.g. PDF’s Internet sites or physical products e.g. newspapers, CDs without prior written permission and consent by me, Leanne M. Smith (Leanne Hoagland-Smith) is strictly prohibited.

Posted by

Leanne M. Smith, MS, GRI, rCRMS

2018 KGVAR Rookie Realtor of the Year-55+
219.508.2859 MST
Life Begins Where the Pavement Ends
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Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Great warning - it is scary to know it could be possible for someone to steal your property and you wouldn't even know.

May 08, 2024 04:49 AM
Leanne Smith

Yes Kat Palmiotti that is probably the scariest part of all of this.  Good morning and thank you.

May 08, 2024 05:52 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

It's pretty sad how easily the assessor's office will allow a deed to go into a different name.  There are certainly some incompetent attorney's out there handling deeds and they should be held accountable for their actions.

May 08, 2024 05:01 AM
Leanne Smith

My sense is trust is something many have and no longer can we trust almost anything due to all the fraud and miss information. I don't know about attorneys.  My only experience with an attorney was positive.

May 08, 2024 05:51 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hi Leanne... life is becoming increasingly more complicated with all the fraud out there. Fortunately, thus far I've not been one of the 54% or 77% of agents. Who knows how long that will last.

May 08, 2024 05:27 AM
Leanne Smith

Yes nefarious behavior seems to make life more complicated.  I had a referral that I referred to another agent and thought it may be deed fraud. My gut was confirmed when the referred agent called the known owners and learned they were not selling their property.

May 08, 2024 05:50 AM
Michael Elliott
Fathom Realty - Burlington Township, NJ
Burlington, New Jersey Residential Sales

Leanne Smith   this is scary stuff!   Does title insurance protect the rightful owners?

May 08, 2024 05:43 AM
Leanne Smith

Title insurance from my understanding protects against liens that were not uncovered during the title search process.  I don't believe it protects against deed fraud. I do know title companies can be mislead.

May 08, 2024 05:48 AM
Michael J. Perry

But you can go after a Title Company who incompetently helped transfer the Deed  

May 08, 2024 06:27 AM
Leanne Smith

Yes one can go after the Title company who failed to due its research correctly.

May 09, 2024 05:55 AM
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
NC Real Estate Transition & Relocation 919-602-848

What a terrible thing to happen to someone. 

May 08, 2024 05:55 AM
Leanne Smith

Agreed and often to the elderly which is even sadder.

May 08, 2024 05:56 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Leanne. Must say I long for the old days when there were only a few bad apples as opposed to these days when they seem to be in the majority. Enjoy your day.

May 08, 2024 06:00 AM
Leanne Smith

And possibly why we have more bad actors is due to technology from telephones to computer hackers.

May 08, 2024 06:16 AM
Kukun's VP of Analytics Franklin Carroll
Kukun, Inc. - Menlo Park, CA
Elite client engagement tools and proptech

Excellent post on a fascinating, albeit terrifying, topic. Whatever the current penalties are for title theft, they need to be stricter. 

May 08, 2024 06:05 AM
Leanne Smith

Even with stricter penalties, laws must be changed to protect actual property owners and those who have committed deed fraud must serve time in jail and take a significant monetary loss.

May 08, 2024 06:17 AM
Randy Mitchelson,APR
Marketing Advisor & Squeeze Mortgage - Bonita Springs, FL
First Impressions are made at First Click

Our team is producing a video tomorrow for Lee County Clerk of Courts about this very topic and the free program available for homeowners to register to protect their property from fraud.

May 08, 2024 06:19 AM
Leanne Smith

Good for you in educating others and working with local county officials.

May 08, 2024 06:31 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

I had a friend who owned building lots have a con man try and sell a lot in PA in October and then try again on a lot in February in NJ . Both times we stopped it , unsuspecting Realtors actually Listed one of the lots !!!

May 08, 2024 06:31 AM
Leanne Smith

So sad when agents fail to undertake their due diligence. Thank you for sharing your personal experience.

May 08, 2024 06:33 AM
John Juarez

Fake sellers of vacant land is something that we have been warned about more than once.

May 08, 2024 06:46 AM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Whenever there is money to be stolen there are those who will scheme to steal it.

May 08, 2024 06:47 AM
Leanne Smith

So true as greed knows no boundaries.

May 08, 2024 06:53 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services


There are endless opportunities for bad people to harm good people, and these days, mostly with little to no consequences. 

May 08, 2024 07:20 AM
Leanne Smith

Yes the bad folks seem sometimes to be ahead of the curve when it comes to nefarious deeds.  Today is seems like the consequences are becoming fewer and fewer.

May 09, 2024 05:56 AM
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

Great warning. Thanks for sharing this to us all.

May 08, 2024 09:21 AM
Leanne Smith

My pleasure and thank you for stopping by.

May 09, 2024 05:57 AM
Katina Hargrove 352-551-0308
Stake Your Land Realty, Inc. - Eustis, FL
Broker/Owner, SFR®, e-PRO®, GRI, AHWD, REALTOR®

Leanne Smith 

Great information, you are correct, fraud is in full swing everywhere.

May 08, 2024 10:18 AM
Leanne Smith

Good morning Katina Hargrove 352-551-0308 and thank you for your comment.

May 09, 2024 05:57 AM
RE/MAX Shoreline - Portsmouth, NH
Buying or Selling? Ann & Jim are the local experts

Fortunately in New Hampshire and many other states as well, our local Registrar of Deeds has made a free property fraud alert available. Just sign up with your name and email and anytime a document is registered with your name, you get an email alert. 

I know this works because I signed up several months ago and recently got an alert that a deed had been recorded with my name on it. Fortunately it was another James Lee with a different middle name, but I was happy to see the service works. 

Many other states offer this service, here's a link to them.

May 08, 2024 11:28 AM
Leanne Smith

Thank you for sharing that link and good morning.

May 09, 2024 05:58 AM
Elyse Berman, PA

That's a great list, Jim.  I wonder though if it needs to be updated.  I checked Palm Beach County, FL.  It says I can nominate it.  Palm Beach County has a free fraud alert that's been in place for some time.  Same as in NH.   

Great information and post Leanne Smith .

May 11, 2024 06:32 PM
John Pusa
Glendale, CA

Hello Leanne Smith deed fraud is very scary, and can happen to anyone. We all need to have some kind of alert for deed fraud.

May 08, 2024 07:55 PM
Leanne Smith

That is true and the link that Jim Lee, REALTOR, CRS, ABR provided may help others here on Active Rain.

May 09, 2024 06:00 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Hi Leanne, Wow! It’sreally a terrible thing that this ever happened to anyone. I’m sure you’ve  saved a lot of people a lot of heartache with this post. Thanks for posting!

May 08, 2024 10:28 PM
Leanne Smith

My pleasure and the goal was to create additional awareness about these nefarious individuals.

May 09, 2024 06:01 AM
Buzz Mackintosh
Mackintosh REALTORS - Frederick, MD
“Experience, reliable, leadership”

I have experienced and heard of many similar attempted fraud cases recently. They seem to be on the uptick in our area.

May 09, 2024 03:55 AM
Leanne Smith

My sense the uptick is everywhere. Good morning Buzz Mackintosh 

May 09, 2024 06:01 AM
Shayne Stone
HomeSmart - Fulshear, TX
"Your Rock Solid Choice Realtor" RETIRED

One way I like to think how I protect myself Leanne Smith is to always keep a small mortgage on my properties. That way, I always have a real estate lawyer on retainer. I figure lenders have the best lawyers... 

Now if I could only figure out a way to write that off my taxes - LOL

May 09, 2024 05:47 PM
Leanne Smith

Yes a mortgage small or large is one step. Thank you for sharing that tip.

May 10, 2024 05:58 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I’m just coming back to this and realizing how common it really is. I wasn’t really aware of how common these things can be.

May 09, 2024 08:04 PM
Leanne Smith

Yes it is quite common and again more so with vacant land that is unencumbered and owned by the elderly.

May 10, 2024 05:59 AM
Gloria Johnpierre
Siven Premier Real Estate, Inc - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Broker- Selling Tampa Bay Homes

I had a client fall victim to this. She was in the mindset of let me get it all done regarding the house ASAP. Although she was warned, she forgot. She called me after to ask about it. It was $93 for something she already owned. Thank you for the wonderful article.

May 10, 2024 04:34 AM
Leanne Smith

Good to read you enjoyed the article and thank you for sharing your experience.

May 10, 2024 06:00 AM