Recording forged deeds that dispossess legitimate titleholders is one of the newer frontiers on the ever-expanding landscape of fraudulent activity.
Garland County Circuit Clerk Jeannie Pike said property owners can use FraudSleuth to receive alerts when deeds are filed in their name. Pike, whose office is the repository for all land records recorded in Garland County, said property owners can sign up for free and receive alerts when documents matching their user profile are recorded.
"With the increase in fraud, our office is excited to offer FraudSleuth as a tool to help protect our constituents," she said in a news release. "I am very happy that our computer systems provider, Kofile Technologies, has made this valuable service available to Garland County residents at no additional cost to our taxpayers."
Pike said she started getting calls about the availability of FraudSleuth after Saline County Circuit Clerk Myka Bono Sample talked about it last year in a radio interview. Sample said Saline County offers the service, prompting Garland County property owners to inquire about its availability.
The service can be accessed by clicking the FraudSleuth icon on the circuit clerk's online database for land records. The database is accessible through the circuit clerk tab on the county's website, http://www.garlandcounty.org.
"If they set up a user name and password, it will notify them if there's any action going on with their property," Pike said. "Since we already use Kofile, I asked them if there's some way they could give us the software and not charge us to use it. Private companies offer to watch your deed, but for a fee."
Stealing the titleholder's identity and recording a forged deed that changes ownership of property is a common means of title theft or deed fraud. The property can then be sold or borrowed against. Targets include the elderly and people who own second homes or vacation homes.
"You have people who have figured out how to steal someone's property," Pike said. "They look to see who has property in a county, and they figure out some way to make a new deed."
Title insurance covers third-party claims against property that don't show up in a title search, but a separate policy may be needed for title-theft coverage.