Real property fraud is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in our country, and one which county and state governments are actively trying to combat. Property fraud is often accomplished when someone files a fraudulent document with the County Clerk in the county where your property is located which conveys title to the real estate from you to them. To all outsiders, it now appears as if someone other than you owns the property, and the property is then typically sold, mortgaged, or rented, much to the true owner’s surprise.
Most individuals don’t realize that the County Clerk is not responsible for deciding on the validity of a document presented for recording, and, therefore, is not required to investigate whether a document is fraudulent or not. However, in order to try to combat this type of fraud, many County Clerks are offering free fraud alerts and watchlists that permit property owners to register to be notified whenever there is a document recorded against your name and/or property. This typically includes deeds and mortgages.
Suffolk and Nassau Counties, as well as all the boroughs of New York City have some document recording notification system in place to alert you when a document is recorded, provided you register for this free service. While this will not prevent the fraud from occurring, it will provide an alert that will allow you to address the matter in a timely manner.
Each county has their own process, so registration steps may vary county to county.
NYC property owners can register for the “Recorded Document Notification Program” here.
Nassau County property owners can register for the “Property Fraud Alert” here.
Suffolk County property owners can register for the “Home Owner’s Watch List (HOWL)” here.
Please remember that each county is in charge of its own real estate. As a result, the County Clerk where the real estate is located is where you should register for the alert, which may or may not be your primary residence address.
It should also be noted, for a lot of our snowbird clients, most counties in Florida are also offering these free alerts for property owners.