Placer County makes real property fraud prevention a priority
Published on Oct. 13, 2022
The Placer County Clerk-Recorder’s Office has launched a new real estate notification program to help protect property owners from unauthorized transfers of real property.
Over the last decade, property fraud (also known as deed or title fraud) has intensified in frequency and impact, afflicting thousands of unsuspecting homeowners across the United States.
A recent study conducted by the FBI found 11,578 cases of real estate fraud totaling more than $350 million in losses in 2021 alone - a 20% increase in cases since 2017. While these figures include all real estate fraud, property fraud is a quickly escalating problem that requires more awareness and a proactive approach to prevention.
To address this need, Placer County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Ryan Ronco has introduced the Real Property Fraud Prevention and Courtesy Notification Program designed to impede fraudulent real estate activity by alerting a property owner in writing any time new information regarding their property is recorded with the Clerk-Recorder’s Office.
Examples of document recordings that will trigger this communication include, but are not limited to, grant deed, quitclaim deeds and partial ownership transfers. While this notification service does not prevent the recording of any document that has been properly submitted to the Clerk-Recorder, it ensures that the owner of the record is alerted to any changes or recordings associated with their property.
Once notified, the property owner can determine if the changes are associated with a legitimate recording or an attempt at a fraudulent activity. In most cases, the recording will be authentic and the owner will not need to take any action. However, if the activity is indeed fraudulent, the owner can immediately take steps to prevent any further fraud and can work with the Placer County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the perpetrators.
“I am pleased to announce our new program that will alert real property owners of potential title fraud,” said Ronco. “While we cannot review documents for legal sufficiency before they are recorded, my team and I are very dedicated to protecting homeowners. Community members should feel confident knowing that our Recorder’s Office is doing all it can to give them the information they need to quickly combat real estate fraud.”
While anyone can be a victim of property fraud, those most vulnerable to this type of crime continue to be senior citizens, those facing financial difficulty and owners of vacant properties or properties with large amounts of equity.
As technology advances and criminals find new pathways to identity theft, property fraud can often go undetected, leaving owners to fight protracted and expensive legal battles to resolve ownership claims involving their own property.
Common examples of this type of fraud include:
- A deed or title is forged or transferred by a third party (often a family member or associate) without the knowledge or consent of the true owner by using falsified identification, notary stamps and/or signatures.
- A lien is placed on a building or structure when no fees have been legitimately incurred, possibly costing the owner thousands of dollars to resolve when they attempt to sell or lease their property.
- A lender's recorded security agreement for a loan may be eliminated by falsified documentation that claims payment of the secured debt, permitting another loan to be illegally acquired.
Though the staff of the Placer County Clerk-Recorder’s office is not permitted to offer legal counsel or intervene should property fraud occur, the security and peace of mind of county residents is of paramount importance and they are committed to doing all they can to prevent these crimes from occurring. If you believe you have been the victim of property fraud, you should immediately contact the Placer County District Attorney’s Fraud Alert Hotline at 916-645-SCAM (7226).
Fraud prevention tips:
- Contact the Placer County Clerk-Recorder’s Office at 530-886-5610 to determine if any documents have been recorded on your property and to determine their validity. You can also conduct your own research online by visiting the following website: https://countyfusion4.kofiletech.us/countyweb/loginDisplay.action?countyname=Placer
- Contact the Placer County Assessor’s Office at 530-889-4300 to verify they have the correct mailing address for any notices regarding your property. Contact them immediately if you stop receiving regular communication, like your property tax bill.
- If your property is vacant, visit or have it checked regularly to ensure it isn’t being occupied illegally by unauthorized individuals.
- Contact the Placer County District Attorney’s Office immediately if fraudulent activity is identified or even suspected.
For more information and to find answers to frequently asked questions regarding the program, visit www.placer.ca.gov/1748/Real-Property-Records, call the Placer County Clerk-Recorder’s Office at 530-886-5610 or email them at Clerk@placer.ca.gov.