Wayne County recorder addresses home title fraud

Wayne County recorder addresses home title fraud
Dan Starcher

Wayne County recorder Jane Carmichael said everyone including homeowners should stay vigilant and learn about the latest fraud schemes to better protect themselves from becoming victims.


Can a home be stolen right out from under its owner? The answer is yes.

Should homeowners be concerned? Wayne County recorder Jane Carmichael said everyone including homeowners should stay vigilant and learn about the latest fraud schemes to help protect their assets. If something does not sound, look or feel right, investigate it.

“The recorder’s office has had many inquiries about title fraud or if someone could obtain the title of your property and change ownership,” Carmichael said. “There are so many scams out there, so my answer would be yes, it could. I believe that family members taking away property from a relative would be more common.”

In 2008 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a real estate business owner in Los Angeles pled guilty to leading a scam that defrauded more than 100 homeowners and lenders out of approximately $12 million. Since then the number of real estate scams has risen.

According to the FBI, there are a few variations to the swindle. However, they boil down to a fraudster ultimately stealing the homeowner’s identity, transferring the property’s deed using fake ID cards, forging signatures and filing paperwork with the proper authorities. A homeowner may continue paying the mortgage and living in the house only to find out later they no longer own the home.

Another type of scam involves homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages, according to the FBI. A crook promises to refinance the mortgage, but instead, they buy the house using a false identity. The homeowner loses the house, and the bank loses the money they loaned to the fake buyers.

The good news is that according to the FBI, because the paperwork is fraudulent, the house does not legally belong to the swindler.

The recorder’s office archives information that pertains to land, which includes deeds and mortgages. Therefore, Carmichael is keeping an eye on how real estate scams evolve.

“The records in the Wayne County Recorder’s Office are public, but they are not online right now,” she said. “But they will be in the future.”

Carmichael offered the following tips and advice to help avoid being the victim of title theft:

—People most preyed upon include the elderly and those with more than one piece of property.

—Do not give out any personal information, do not sign anything you do not understand, do not sign anything from a stranger and question any mail regarding your property you are unsure about.

—Make sure you receive bills at your address, especially tax bills.

—Watch for identity theft and check credit reports.

—Many people would have to be in on the scam: banks, notaries, appraisers, title companies, et cetera. Signatures also would have to be forged.

—Protect email accounts. Take measures to avoid email hacking.

—Monitoring companies that advertise protection cannot prevent title theft. They require a monthly fee and only find out after the fraud occurs. They may offer reimbursement.

—Check indexes online; this will show what is happening with a property. Go to www.ohiorecorders.com, click on Wayne County, Ohio and click on the link to the indexes. Sign in as a guest, accept, search, and type last name and then first name. This will return what has been recorded since May 1988.

—Search online for title fraud to find out more information.

Carmichael urges anyone with questions regarding title fraud to call her office at 330-287-5464 or email jcarmichael@wayneohio.org.

Dan Starcher is the public communications coordinator for the Wayne County government.

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