According to the FBI, one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes committed in the United States is regarding home title fraud. In 2021, the FBI issued a report that there were more than $600 million in estimated losses related to home title fraud and of the claimed losses, Florida made up more than 10% of the total.
The common targets for title fraud are those with a large amount of equity, like seniors, that aren’t suspecting fraud, as well as people with investment or secondary vacation properties. Unfortunately, the scammers will target the people who are the most trusting and inattentive.
How Title Fraud Works
Scammers will file a fake deed online, appearing as if they own the home that is not actually theirs. The scammer will then trick someone (or multiple people) into giving them money to rent or buy the home.
How to Prevent Title Fraud
In effort to help protect property owners, Duval County announced the launch of its FREE Property Fraud Alert system in June 2022. Duval County is now connected to more than 400 counties nationwide, which includes 6 others in Florida (at the time this article was written).
You can now access the free service by:
- Registering on the Property Fraud Alert website or by calling (800) 728-3858;
- Entering the individual or business name that you want to monitor; and
- Selecting which phone number or email address you want to use to receive the alerts. You will receive a confirmation message if you select email as your preferred alert.
- You can repeat the process to monitor additional names.
- To change or cancel the Property Fraud Alerts, you must call (800) 728-3858.
What to Do When You Receive an Alert
You will receive an alert within 48 hours of a document being recorded that matches your monitoring criteria.
The alert will include a Document Number which is the same as the Clerk’s Instrument Number. You can search the online Official Records to see the actual document. It is best to search using the Document Number/Instrument Number by selecting the Instrument Number tab at the top of the website. Next, enter the document number from your Property Fraud Alert. Contact the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office immediately at (904) 630-0500 if you suspect you are a victim of title fraud.
Your Rights as a Victim of Title Fraud
Title fraud is a third-degree felony. Regardless of whether you file criminal charges, all property owners who are adversely affected by someone filing a fraudulent title deed have the grounds for a civil cause of action against the defrauding party.
If the courts determine that the filed document is fraudulent and it did not establish a property interest in favor of another person, the court may award you a corrective deed, damages that are actual and punitive, as well as recovery of costs plus attorney’s fees (within reason).
- 817.535(2)(a), Fla. Stat.
- 817.535(8)(a), Fla. Stat.
- 817.535(8)(b), Fla. Stat.
Take Immediate Action to Prevent Title Fraud
If you are a property owner or have loved ones who are seniors or disabled and own property in Duval County, be vigilant against scammers and title fraud. You can begin monitoring title documents immediately by getting registered in the Duval County Property Fraud Alert System. In addition to contacting the police if you are a victim of title fraud, you can also contact an attorney familiar with the legal facets of real estate and the civil suit process.
Duval County Property Fraud Alert System: