It could destroy your credit rating, transfer ownership of your property without your knowledge, or complicate the deal to finally buy your dream home so it fails to close in the final moments.
Property fraud—a crime typically committed so quietly that the victims are often the last to know—affected in 2018 more than 20,000 Americans, totaled $1.3 billion in losses and earned an FBI designation as the fastest growing white-collar crime in the country.
To fight back against property fraud and protect residents, the Martin County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller is launching a new, free security service to personally alert the public to any such attacks on their property documents and enlist their support to ascertain the scope of the threat.
The service earned strong support from Martin County Sheriff William D. Snyder for its prevention potential.
“By the time property fraud complaints make it to our Criminal Investigations Division, the victim likely faces irreversible damage,” says Sheriff Snyder. “This new alert focuses on preventing criminal activity and the disruption it can cause.”
In essence, it’s an identity-theft protection tool for your real property – for free.
“The best way to safeguard against fraudulent activity is to notify the potentially affected parties right away,” says Clerk Carolyn Timmann. “Our notification system is a tool to empower property owners to conveniently stay alert and act quickly if potential fraud is detected—which could prove pivotal to any law enforcement investigation.”
The Clerk’s Property Fraud Alerts help:
- Protect your credit rating, name and real property;
- Identify and inform you of any potential unknown liens on your property;
- Prevent the interruption of closing on the sale of your property;
- Act as a broader tool in identity-theft prevention; and
- Notify you immediately of any activity on your property documents so you can act quickly.
News reports show that due in large part to its high population of seniors and residents relocated from other states, Florida ranks among the top two states nationwide in property fraud instances. The Treasure Coast is not immune from the threat.
Locals may remember an elaborate scheme exposed a few years ago where an individual filed quit-claim and warranty deeds with county clerks’ offices to fraudulently take control and lease out 35 properties in Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties worth $7.5 million. More than 80 victims were impacted.
Recognizing that recording fraudulent documents is often the entry point for such scams, Clerk Timmann opted to serve as a security checkpoint, notifying property owners immediately of any activity that may affect their property.
Leaders in the real estate profession praised the service for exposing actions that can hinder transactions, delaying and disrupting individuals’ plans for their property.
“We’re extremely excited that Carolyn Timmann is bringing the strength of her office to help defend citizens against property fraud,” says Jeff Clark, president of the Martin County REALTORS® of the Treasure Coast. “Homeownership positively transforms an individual’s life. But acts of fraud can undermine everything. So, we welcome this tool to help prevent its spread and hope every Martin County property owner takes advantage of it.”
How it works:
Any time a document is recorded using a name listed by a subscriber, they receive a “Fraud Alert” by email enabling them to immediately authenticate the activity.
Search returns match the exact name registered, so subscribers are advised to register multiple spelling variations of any name they are watching to ensure the best results and broadest possible alerts. Registrations are not limited to the subscriber’s own property. Individuals may want to use this system to help protect vulnerable senior family members, too.
As the county recorder charged with the responsibility of recording all documents that meet the requirements of Florida law, the Martin County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller is uniquely positioned on the frontlines to note – and notify – any affected party of any document presented in their name.
How to subscribe:
Visit www.MartinClerk.com, access the “Property Fraud Alert” tab. Once you complete the registration form, click “Send Confirmation Email.” You’ll be emailed a link to validate your address. Once you complete that validation, you’ll receive a second and final email confirming your enrollment is complete. For help, call (772) 288-5551 or email OfficialRecords@MartinClerk.com.
For more information, please contact the Official Records Division at (772) 288-5551, located on the first floor of the Constitutional Office Building at the Martin County Courthouse. The Clerk records, indexes and archives all documents that create the Official Records of Martin County.