Although there may be other types of property fraud, the Records Department has frequently seen the following type. First, individuals engaging in this type of fraud look for vacant and or abandoned properties involving forged deeds. They prepare a deed and/or forge the signatures of the current owners of the property. Owners' signatures are verified by notary publics who have not verified the signatures thoroughly enough, have been fooled by forged identification documents, or, sometimes, are part of the illegal activity and formally acknowledge the documents even though the identities and signatures are not those of the real property owners.
The documents with forged signatures are presented to the Records Department for recording. If a deed or mortgage document is presented for recording and the document conforms to sixteen certian State and City requirements, it must be recorded. As a result, despite the fraudulent nature of the transfer, the property is transfeered to the new ower. In some situations, after recording the first document, individuals involved in this fraud quickly prepare another deed, have the deed notarized and recorded, and transfer the ownership of the property to yet another name.
Real estate fraud is a growing problem in our City. The City of Philadelphia Records Department new Document Notice Program will combat fraud by informing property owners of real estate transactions that are registered with the City. By notifying property owners, the City is combating crime and giving owners opportunities to take corrective action.
The Records Department will notify current property owners each time a deed or mortgage is recorded by mailing them a letter giving details of the transaction. This notification will give property owners the ability to verify transactions and provide notice of possible fraud involving their property. Owners will receive information on legal services and advice on how to take action if a transaction is fraudulent.
Under Pennsylvania law, the Records Department is mandated to record all deed and mortgage documents if they are filled out completely, even if the information later proves false. This means that fraudulent documents that are completed correctly are recorded and may go undetected until a legal transaction against the deed or mortgage is initiated. The Document Notice Program will protect homeowners, who will be able to uncover and resolve fraud involving their property immediately after a fraudulent transaction is recorded, rather than having it come to light years later.