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Deed Theft Criminals Get More Aggressive at Stealing Your Home
 by: Charles Essmeier

Deed theft is an increasingly popular crime in the real estate industry. It usually works like this: A company will post signs around town offering to "help" those facing debt problems that might lead to foreclosure. Representatives of the company meet with the homeowner and offer to take over the payments for a year or so while the owner gets his or her finances in order. The company urges the owner to sign over the property to the company, with the understanding that after a year or so, the owner may buy the property back. It seldom, if ever, works that way. Once the property is signed over, the company often evicts the former owner and sells the property at a profit. The owner gets nothing.

This scam has been working well for years, but apparently isn't efficient enough for some crooks. In a new twist, some clever criminals have found a better way. Now, instead of pretending to help, the crooks just forge the owner's name on a quitclaim deed and file it with the county. A quitclaim deed is a statement from a property owner that he or she no longer wishes to maintain any interest in the property. That document specifies who will take over ownership.

In some places, the thief will have the document notarized by an accomplice. In others, the thief will simply take advantage of an overworked or inattentive notary public before filing the document with county clerks who usually don't bother to check if the document is legitimate. In either case, the result is the same. The thief now "owns" the property and is free to sell it or refinance it. Usually, once having done so, the thief and the money disappear. Under the right circumstances, this can even happen without the real owner even realizing that it has happened.

This type of theft is becoming more and more prevalent in hotbeds of mortgage fraud such as the Southeastern United States. Law enforcement agencies are often at a loss as to how to follow up on this crime, as they often will have little more to go on than a name on a document, which may not even be real. In the meantime, clerks and notaries public are being urged to scrutinize such documents more carefully. Deed theft and mortgage fraud are serious problems that are costing Americans hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

About The Author

©Copyright 2005-06 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including, a site devoted to information regarding home equity lending.

This article was posted on March 29, 2006


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