Philadelphia fights back against deed fraud
“Fraud Guard” is a new tool unveiled by the city that will notify individuals anytime a transaction takes place in their name regarding property.
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As Philadelphia’s property values continue to rise, there is a never-ending stream of parties looking to cash in. Along with those who go about acquiring property in lawful manners, there are also those who operate outside the legal guidelines.
One of those illegal manners of obtaining property that’s been on the rise in Philly over the last couple of years is deed fraud.
At the base level, deed fraud is the theft of real estate through the forging of property ownership documents.
Perpetrators often target the elderly, absent or dead property owners who either aren’t around to contest a change or aware of the implications of altering a deed.
Oftentimes, once the scam is realized, the property has already changed hands many times and is in the process of renovation or redevelopment — creating a legal nightmare for all involved.
“Deed fraud is an issue that can affect anyone, but more often than not, victims are members of our most vulnerable communities who face significant barriers in recovering their homes given the expense and complexity of the legal process,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a press release.
On Wednesday, Oct. 30, the Mayor’s Office announced the creation of “Fraud Guard” to curb the rising tide of deed fraud.
The new tool is optional, but allows individuals to track the use of a name on any real estate document filed at Philadelphia’s Recorder of Deeds Office.
If the name is used, the individual will receive a notifying email. Currently, the city reports by mailing notices, but this method is often unreliable because home addresses may not be updated.
Philadelphia Commissioner of Records, James P. Leonard said the new digital approach will keep potentially affected citizens more up to date and capable of acting before things get out of control.
“Fraud Guard provides the public with closer to real time information about deeds, mortgages and other documents recorded against properties in which they have an interest,” he said in a press release. “Identifying the fraud as early as possible is critical in preventing further damage to victims, restoring ownership in their home, and assisting in the successful prosecution of fraudsters.”
To participate, individuals are encouraged to make a free account to start receiving emails.