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Pabst urges property owners to use free service

Register of Deeds Beth Pabst

Beth Pabst, register of deeds, urges property owners in St. Croix County to take advantage of a free service that could alert them to fraud.

Pabst's office has teamed with Fidlar Technologies to create the Property Fraud Alert system. It is a free service to property owners. "The system notifies individuals when transactions involving their property are recorded in the register of deeds office," said Pabst.

Property Fraud Alert allows up to four names under the same email address or up to three names on the same phone number.

Pabst estimated nearly all the alerts sent out will include legitimate documents recording when a home is bought, sold, refinanced and the like but, "It doesn't hurt to be informed," she said.

Property fraud occurs when somebody uses an individual's property for their own financial gain. The scam develops when someone records a fraudulent document in the register of deeds office making it look like they own your home or land.

Pabst said some 1,400 residents of the county have signed on to the system. "There have been no instances of property fraud that we know of," she said.

Property Fraud Alert provides an early warning system for home owners to take appropriate actions if their property is involved in a fraudulent transaction. It does not prevent fraud.

"When signing on to the system, it's important to keep the information basic. Just use first and last names," said Pabst. While this may cause some confusion with persons in the county who have the same name, it is easily verified with a call to the register of deeds office. "The more information added the more chance of a mistake and a property owner wouldn't be alerted to the activity," she said.

The perpetrators of property fraud and mortgage fraud tend to pick on the elderly, snowbirds, who are gone for months over the winter, absentee owners, rental units and vacant lots. The scammers target a property then comb through public records to gather information. They forge signatures, sometimes steal the owner's identification, and then sell the property at a reduced price without the rightful owner's knowledge.

Property Fraud Alert gives notice when there is activity on a property, if you done anything with your mortgage and the transactions don't look legitimate alert authorities.

Property and mortgage fraud is the fastest growing white collar crime in the country, according to the FBI. The FBI reported 3,129 mortgage fraud investigations in 2010.

In one reported incident in Philadelphia, the absentee owner of a row house discovered it had been sold for $5,000 when a contractor was sent to do some work and found the place had been gutted by another contractor representing another person who bought it.

To subscribe to Property Fraud Alert free of charge contact www.propertyfraudalert.come/stcroixwi on the web or call 1-800-728-3858. For further details contact the St. Croix County Register of Deeds office at (715) 386-4650.