The latest attempt to reign in property identity theft - in which scammers forge deeds to claim people's homes - is underway. The local court system is offering speedy hearings for victims and free legal help.
The President Judge of Common Pleas Court, Pamela Pryor Dembe, says anyone who believes they're the victim of property identity theft can call the Office of the Prothonotary, 280 City Hall, at 215-686-8863 and get an expedited hearing and - if needed - a pro bono attorney:
"We are going to expedite the process, and the handling of these kinds of cases, wherein there is the allegation of fraudulent transfer of real property."
Property identity theft occurs when someone forges an owner's signature on a deed and claims ownership, with the victim often not realizing it until long after the crime.
Judge Dembe says she'll speed up a hearing process that could otherwise take a year or more. Call the Office of the Prothonotary, 280 City Hall, 215-686-8863 for more infomation.
Stolen Homes / Mortgage Fraud
If you are the victim of property fraud, please do the following:
Contact the Lawyer's Referral and Information Services of the Philadelphia Bar Association:
215-238-6333. The Service will refer you to a real estate lawyer or to an appropriate organization. You must telephone the service. The service does not have walk-in hours.