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Property Deed Fraud Is Growing in Florida

Property Deed Fraud Is Growing in Florida

The switch to online records may be part of the problem. All of Florida’s 67 counties have some sort of property fraud alert program, but more people need to sign up.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Across Florida, scammers are selling people's land and even homes behind their backs.

Officials are urging property owners to protect themselves this week.

It's called property deed fraud, and there's been a big spike in cases here in Florida because the real estate market in the Sunshine State is hot.

More than 54% of real estate professionals experienced it firsthand in just the second half of 2023. It happens when a scammer steals someone's identity and title and then sells your property without you knowing.

And that's exactly what happened to a man in North Florida.

"I came from out of town and there was a business card stuck in the door, it was a detective from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office," John Roney said.

That's how John found out his nearly three-acre waterfront lot was almost sold for $40 thousand. The bank was just about to hand over the funds at closing when it noticed two things: an incorrect driver's license number and a misspelling of his last name on the property deed.

Clay County's Clerk of Court says Roney is lucky those mistakes were caught.

"There are instances where, I can think of three, where a person filed a fraudulent deed, and simply changed the name by one letter or to change some of the information in the address or in the text of the document by just one letter or two," Mary Justino with the Clerk of Court said.

Part of the problem is the switch to online. Out of the 65,000 records recorded by Clay County's Clerk of Court in 2023, 54,000 were done solely online.

You can protect yourself by signing up for your local county's property fraud alert program. It sends emails and texts if there's activity on land you own.

It doesn't prevent fraud, but it's like an early warning system. But not many people know about it; out of the roughly 230,000 people who live in Clay County, only 28,000 have signed up.

All of Florida's 67 counties have some sort of property fraud alert program. For more info, go to the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers website.

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Thomas McDaniel, Realtor Associate
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Real Estate Sales Force
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