You have worked hard to purchase your dream home, envisioning years of cherished memories within its walls. However, unbeknownst to you, thieves lurk in the shadows, scheming to manipulate property titles and jeopardize your investment.
As a Financial Planner, even I was unaware of the vulnerability of one's property ownership in the face of evolving fraudulent activities. In this article, we are diving into the world of property title protection and exploring ways that you can add layers of defense against potential property fraud. Your dream home deserves more than just your investment, it deserves your vigilant protection.
Just a few months ago, my attention was grabbed by an article in our local paper shedding light on how local counties are seeing more ‘quit claim’ deed fraud than ever before. What struck me was the alarming simplicity with which perpetrators could file fraudulent paperwork at the county recorder's office, attempting to execute this type of fraud.
In these schemes, a quit claim deed, typically a swift and legitimate means of transferring property within families, becomes a tool for deception. A false signature of the owner, combined with a negligent or complicit notarization, is all it takes to record a bogus claim against the property. Once recorded, the perpetrator swiftly moves to sell the property to an unsuspecting buyer.
Although, for this type of fraud to succeed, various elements must align favorably for the perpetrator. However, the method of operation seems to involve casting a wide net, hoping that at least one of their many attempts will bear fruit. Now, let's get into how property owners can shield themselves from such unsettling scenarios.
The Basics of Title Protection
Title protection revolves around securing your legal ownership of a property, a critical aspect of financial well-being. During real estate transactions, the risk of fraudulent activities, such as unauthorized changes in ownership through documents like Quit Claim deeds, poses a considerable threat. Staying vigilant is key to avoiding potential complications down the road.
Step 1: Conduct a Title Search
Before purchasing real estate, it's crucial to conduct a title search. This involves a comprehensive examination of public records to confirm the current owner, identify any outstanding liens or encumbrances, and verify the property's legal status. This initial step helps you spot potential issues and ensures a transparent and secure transaction.
Step 2: Consider Property Fraud Alert Services
Once you've become a property owner, the next crucial step in title protection is signing up for property fraud alert services provided by your local government. These services notify you if any paperwork is filed to alter the ownership status of your property, such as a Quit Claim deed. This immediate alert allows you to address the situation promptly, and the best part, it is free.
Each county has the choice to implement this type of protection service, which would be rolled out by the county recorders department. The national version that seems to be a plug and play option for counties is called "Property Fraud Alert, however, many counties are developing their own system. The best way to find out if your county already has this type of notification system is to visit the county recorders website, and search for this type notification service. Other examples of this service we have seen are "FANS" - Fraud Alert Notification System, or "Recording Notification Service - Fraud Alert".
If your county does not currently have this notification system available, I believe the best step would be to contact your county commissioner or recorder, and make your request known to them. The more inquiries they receive, the more likely your county will implement this type of system. So spread the word!
Consider Subscription-based Alert Services
In recent times, subscription-based services like TitleLock have emerged, offering an extra layer of protection against property fraud. While I don't endorse specific products, it's essential to explore available options for a comprehensive understanding of your choices.
TitleLock operates on a subscription model, providing continuous monitoring of your property's title. If any suspicious activity is detected, such as attempts to change ownership or fraudulent filings, the service notifies you promptly. Some individuals find the peace of mind offered by these services invaluable, considering the potential financial consequences of property fraud.
It is my personal opinion that the notification system rolled out by the county is more responsive in alerting you when paperwork has been filed to the county recorder, however, if your county does not have this service available, it is a way that you can add this layer of protection until your county takes action in bringing a notification system online.
Make Informed Choices
I encourage clients to make informed choices regarding title protection, however, it's crucial to thoroughly research and evaluate such services, considering factors like cost, effectiveness, and customer reviews before making a decision.
Conclusion: Empower Yourself as a Property Owner
Educating yourself on title protection empowers you as a property owner. By conducting a thorough title search before purchase, enrolling in property fraud alert services, and exploring additional options like TitleLock, you take proactive steps to secure your investment. In a world where technology facilitates increasingly sophisticated fraudulent activities, staying informed and proactive is the key to ensuring your property remains a stronghold of financial security.