PHILADELPHIA – In its ongoing effort to combat deed fraud, the City of Philadelphia today released a free online tool called “Fraud Guard.” The City also debuted a website, www.phila.gov/deed-fraud, dedicated to assisting residents who are concerned about deed fraud.
Any member of the public can register for a “Fraud Guard” account on the new website. The tool allows them to request an email notification if a specified name appears in any document, such as a deed or mortgage, recorded in the City of Philadelphia Recorder of Deeds Office.
“Deed fraud is an issue that can affect anyone, but more often than not, victims are members of our most vulnerable communities who face significant barriers in recovering their homes given the expense and complexity of the legal process,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Our Administration recognizes the seriousness of deed fraud and is committed to working with City Council, criminal justice partners, and other community stakeholders to implement innovative solutions to prevent and reduce the negative effects of this terrible crime.”
“Fraud Guard” users will receive an email notification approximately 30 days after a document is recorded, which is about the time it currently takes for the City to fully process recorded documents. They will be able to click on the document in the email and view an unofficial copy of the document that was recorded to easily determine if it is fraudulent.
This online notification enhances the City’s existing paper notification process, under which property owners of record are notified by mail whenever a deed or mortgage is recorded on a property. The paper notice does not include the document that was recorded and can at times take up to a few months to receive. The email notice through Fraud Guard will reach individuals much quicker.
“Fraud Guard provides the public with closer to real time information about deeds, mortgages and other documents recorded against properties in which they have an interest,” said James P. Leonard, Commissioner of Records for the City of Philadelphia. “This allows individuals to quickly determine whether or not a property may have been stolen. Identifying the fraud as early as possible is critical in preventing further damage to victims, restoring ownership in their home, and assisting in the successful prosecution of fraudsters.”
In addition to allowing residents to register for Fraud Guard, the City’s new deed fraud website contains newly created FAQs about deed fraud, developed in consultation with members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Fraudulent Conveyance Task Force. These FAQs provide clear guidance to the public on how to reduce the risk of deed fraud and what to do if you believe you are a victim.
“User-friendly tools like Fraud Guard and the new website allow the public to leverage technology to reduce the negative effects of deed fraud,” said Councilmember Cherelle Parker (9th District). “This is in keeping with my commitment to protecting constituents from the shameful scourge of the theft of homes, other property, and identities.”
People are encouraged to go the website www.phila.gov/deed-fraud to create a free Fraud Guard account and begin receiving email notifications. If you receive notice of a document that you believe is fraudulent, you are encouraged to contact the City of Philadelphia Records Department to file a fraud report and receive instructions on how best to proceed to protect your rights (City Hall, Room 154, (215)-686-2261, firstname.lastname@example.org). A copy of the report form can be found on the new website.