What is the best way to prevent title scams?

Q: Recently, the focus has been on title theft and home loss. What is the best way to check the status of a title and prevent the property from being stolen? — James

A: Real estate ownership fraud is serious, but fortunately it’s a rare event.

In a typical real estate transaction, the certificate is signed, notarized and recorded in the official county record.

Title companies or lawyers usually do this, but anyone who knows how to meet the requirements can register the document on public records.

In addition to modern convenience, technology makes it easy for scammers to create fake certificates, making it look like you have transferred your home to a new owner. This fake new owner usually waits a few months before trying to sell the property or take out a mortgage.

Unoccupied houses and villas are at greater risk than homes where people live full-time.

Fraudsters are known to monitor death certificates and target properties whose relatives live in another state.

The best defense against title scams is to be careful.

You can monitor what is recorded on public records in most places by visiting the recording office website and searching for your name. Do this once or twice a month and you’ll quickly find out what you’re referring to in the public domain.

For example, in Broward County, Florida, a real estate appraiser office has a free service that, when registered, warns you if your home certificate is recorded. This service is not available everywhere, but you need to know where you live.

Anyone who buys a home can tell you about the junk emails and piles of ads you get after your certificate is recorded. If this happens, check your public records.

If you are a victim of this type of fraud, you will need to contact law enforcement agencies. You may also need to hire a lawyer to solve the problem.

It is impossible to avoid being the victim of a crime, but diligence is your best defense.

The best defense against title scams is to be careful.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida lawyer and board certified by Florida Bar as a real estate law expert. He practices real estate, business proceedings and contract law at his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chair of the real estate division of the Broward County Bar Association and co-sponsor of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults with various companies across the country on common Florida real estate issues and trends. Send him a question online at or follow him on Twitter @ GarySingerLaw.

What is the best way to prevent title scams?

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