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Fraud alert can save you from losing property

Posted: 5:01 PM, Jan 07, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-08 20:21:21Z

The FBI calls it the fastest growing crime in America.

A scam where someone files a fraudulent quit claim deed to steal people’s homes.

Yohany Garcia is part of a group charged with doing it in Miami and making millions.

In one case, a woman was forced out of a house her family owned for decades, leaving her homeless.

“The judge said that the house should go back to her, but in the meantime, everything she owned was thrown out. It was 6, 7 months of unnecessary pain for her,” said Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller, Dr. Paula O’Neil.

Scammers often target homes belonging to owners who have died, using a fake notary and forged signatures to transfer ownership.

The home is then sold to legitimate buyer, who isn’t aware anything is wrong.

In Pasco County, O’Neil is hoping a new fraud alert system will keep those types of scams from ever happening here.

“If people know something’s being recorded in their name, in the official records, they can check it,” she said.

You can sign up for the alert on the clerk’s website. Then you’ll get notified whenever any official record is your name is filed.

That can be quit claim deeds, liens, or even power of attorney.

“One of our employees recently got married and she received an alert, and she thought what’s going on? And she looked and it was her marriage license that was recorded. So it was legitimate,” said Nikki Alvarez-Sowles, Chief Operations Officer with the Clerk’s office.

Around 400 alerts have gone out to those who have signed up since October in Pasco County, and so far, all of those have been on the up-and-up.

The fraud alert is free and also available in some surrounding counties including Hillsborough and Pinellas.

To sign up, follow the links below:

Pasco County: http://pfa.fidlar.com/FLPasco

Hillsborough County: https://www.hillsclerk.com/publicweb/Property_Fraud.aspx

Pinellas County: http://www.pinellasclerk.org/aspInclude2/ASPInclude.asp?pageName=propertyfraudalert.htm

Polk County:  http://polkcountyclerk.net/propertyalert/