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Protect your property from mortgage fraud (FREE!)

By Michael H. Wasserman

When it comes to identity theft, credit card spending is only the tip of the iceberg. Not only are thieves using stolen information to go shopping on your Visa card, they are scamming medical insurance, falsifying citizenship / immigration status and travelling and using false (your) credentials. They also want to use your information to take away your home—or at least your hard earned home equity.

Recent data security breaches at Equifax  (and who-knows-what other attacks) leave us all vulnerable to these gambits. I recently offered up six steps to take to protect yourself from the Equifax breach…and today, for readers who already own or are in the process of buying real estate, I suggest one more step: property fraud alerts.

Chicago area property owners can and should sign up for FREE property fraud alerts through their local county Recorder of Deeds. These alerts will let you know if any documents affecting your property are filed in their offices, something identity thieves must do to gain access to your property’s value.

Here are two common ways identity thieves attack property: 
  1. Forgers might sign an owner’s name to a deed, transferring the property to some straw-person who can then sell to another, unsuspecting “bona fide purchaser.” The forger then collects the purchaser’s money and disappears, leaving the former owner and the purchaser with an expensive and confusing mess.
     
  2. Mortgage identity thieves use an owner’s personal information to borrow money against the property without the owner’s knowledge...at least until the loan defaults and the bank serves foreclosure papers. Yikes.
Fortunately, thanks to the public land recording system, you can be notified when someone uses your property without (or with) your permission.

Every property transaction—including these scams—gets registered with the local county recorder. The recorder keeps official governmental registries of all land transfers, as well as mortgages and other liens where a borrower or debtor's liability is secured against property.

Even forged deeds or fraudulent mortgages have to be recorded for the thieves to score any money.

You can hire private companies to monitor your land records for you. One such company is currently advertising its services heavily on local radio and the internet—for $9.99 a month. There is a better alternative (and it’s free).

Property Fraud Alerts are notifications provided directly by your local county recorder’s office. Every time a lien, transfer or other document is recorded against your property, the recorder will tell you via text message or email. County recorders offer the same protection as those for-profit companies, at no cost.

We have been urging our clients to use these services for nearly two years already, but this is important—and easy—enough that everyone should do so .

Start by finding your PIN at these links:
Cook County Property Search 

DuPage County Property Look Up 

Kane Land Records Search 

Lake County Search by Address 

McHenry County Property Tax Look Up 

Will County Property Search 

Then, sign up for alerts at these links:

Cook County Property Fraud Alert 

DuPage County Property Fraud Alert 

Kane County Property Watch 

Lake County Property Check 

McHenry County Property Fraud Alert

Will County Property Fraud Alert 

Learn more about property fraud alerts at your local county recorder’s website:
Cook County

DuPage County 

Kane County

Lake County 

McHenry County 

Will County

Questions? Contact me at michael@mhwasserman.com.

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