Keep an eye on your title
Identity theft is no longer about protecting your mail, credit cards, and bank account. Bad actors have evolved in their treason and have moved to stealing home property through title cheating. With a few forged documents, scammers can meet the County Recorder’s record-keeping requirements, changing title to property and effectively stealing property rights.
You may be wondering how this type of scam was possible. Scammers create fake title documents and file them with the Office of the County Recorder. Until recently, many of these crimes went undetected until the homeowner had reason to check title during a refinance or sale of their home.
The District Attorney’s Office combats this type of fraud with a dedicated team of prosecutors and investigators who work with the Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk’s Office to bring fraudsters to justice. However, the damage to the victims is often already done.
The San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk has implemented a system that protects homeowners through a record notification service that is free to all members of the public. Consumers can register online to receive an email notification within 48 hours when a document is captured on a registered property. Homeowners can register up to five names and five Assessor’s Parcel Numbers (APN). This service will enable consumers to forestall fraudsters before they have had an opportunity to cause any real damage to a property.
Until recently there were no systems in place to notify the rightful owner that the title had been stolen. This gave scammers valuable time to obtain credit by using the property as collateral, or if the property is vacant, to hire tenants and even sell the home to an unsuspecting buyer.
Consumers can register online at the San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk website at: https://arccprn.sandiegocounty.gov/ Here are some tips to avoid title fraud:
- Sign up for the admission notification system
- Search the Official District Index for documents previously recorded under your name and property.
- Be careful with online signing apps like Docusign – read the full document to make sure it’s the right contract and keep a copy of the signed version.
- If you have a second home or a vacant home, check it regularly to make sure there are no squatters, unwanted renters, or scammers trying to squat – it can be as simple as installing an internet-based webcam in the home.
- Make sure your property tax bill is paid on time and in your name.
- Make sure all utilities are paid on time and in your name.
- Continue to take steps to protect against basic identity theft. If you believe you have been the victim of title fraud, report the incident to a local law enforcement agency or request a real estate fraud complaint form from the San Diego District Attorney at [email protected]
For more information, visit our website at https://www.sdcda.org/preventing/real-estate-fraud/. As your District Attorney, I am committed to improving communication and accessibility between the District Attorney’s office and the public. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.