Free e-mail alerts cna cut down on property fraud

Huntington County Recorder Angela L. Garner is expanding access to a service that allows users to keep a watchful eye for signs of potentially fraudulent activity involving their property.

Property Fraud Alert, first made available to paying subscribers, can now be accessed for free by anyone.
Tough times are making property and mortgage fraud even more of a potential threat, Garner says, adding that opening the Property Fraud Alert service to everyone will Huntington County less attractive to criminals.

A common property fraud scenario involves a criminal filing a bogus deed making it appear that the actual owner is transferring ownership of a parcel to someone else. The criminal then takes that deed to a bank, fraudulently obtains a mortgage and disappears with a large amount of money.

While it can happen to anyone, perpetrators of property fraud often prey on the elderly, people in long-term care facilities, absentee property owners and owners who spend large parts of the year out of town. While these crimes have yet to occur in Huntington County in significant numbers, property fraud is a serious problem in other parts of Indiana, Garner says. In April 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation included Indiana among 10 states that are significantly affected by mortgage fraud.

"Everyone should take advantage of this service before this crime infects Huntington County," Garner says. "The best protection we can offer against property fraud is proactive protection."

Property owners can sign up online at www.propertyfraudalert.com or by calling 800-7474-4600, extension 324 or 271. The toll-free number reaches Fidlar Technologies, the software vendor for the recorder's office software vendor. Registration requires the person's name and a phone number or e-mail address.

The system monitors approximately 70 different document types and delivers an alert by e-mail or telephone if the user's name appears on a document filed in the Huntington County recorder's office.

Most alerts received will be for legitimate documents, such as those filed when a home is bought or sold. But if the property owner is concerned about a document he or she is unaware of, the alert contains information that allows the owner to investigate the matter and to take appropriate action.