According to the FBI, property fraud is one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes. Property fraud can occur when someone records a fraudulent document in the Official Records. Deed fraud happens when a fraudulent deed is recorded on a property. In many cases, the owner may not even be aware that a deed changing the ownership of their property was recorded. Fraudulent mortgages and liens could also be recorded on a property.
Often times, this type of fraud can go undetected if the property owner does not periodically check their property in the Official Records. Although checking does not prevent the actual fraudulent activity from taking place, it does provide an early warning of what may have otherwise gone undetected.
The Orange County Comptroller’s Official Records Department only reviews requirements for recording and has no authority to refuse to record a properly prepared document, even if it may be fraudulent.
Even if proved fraudulent, no document can be removed from the Official Records without a judge’s order from the courts.
Consumers should take prompt, appropriate action if they determine a recording to be fraudulent.
What can you do to protect your property from property fraud?
- Check the Comptroller’s Official Records often using the Records Search to make sure that there are no deeds, mortgages or liens that you are not aware unaware of on your property.
- If your property is not occupied, you should check often to make sure it is not occupied illegally.
- Ask someone you trust to look after your house if you are going to be away for an extended period of time.
- Do not let mail pile up if you are going out of town.
- Make sure that the Property Appraiser and Tax Collector offices have the correct mailing address for you or the person who should receive notices about your property.
- Contact them if you suddenly stop receiving notices that you used to get such as your TRIM Notice and Tax Bill.
What to do if you think you may be a victim of deed fraud: