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Beware of property fraud and scams

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Greene County homeowner received an official-looking letter in the mail that said "Deed Processing Notice." It looked like it came from a government agency.

The letter explained why a homeowner should have a copy of their property deed and "property profile" information. And then came the hook. The company, located in Washington, D.C. would send a copy to the homeowner for a fee of $86.

Even though the letter was personalized with a Jasonville resident's name, address and some limited information about their property, the man who received it did not fall for it and took the notice into the county recorder's office.

Greene County Recorder Stuart Dowden wants people to know the facts behind this suspected scam.

He said he doesn't know if a property owner sent the company the money, whether or not the company would actually deliver the information, but it's completely unnecessary.

"You don't need to pay someone to get a copy of your deed," said Dowden. "Just go to the county recorder's office and get a copy.

"It costs just one dollar per page. Usually a deed is a page, or two or three. With a survey attached, a deed might be five or six pages. A really large deed could be as long as 12 pages.

"Since it only costs one dollar per page, no property owner needs to pay $86 for a copy of their deed.

"I'm really glad this individual did not send in the money and instead brought the letter into the office."

Dowden has a copy of the letter in his office. He said he has no way of knowing how many other people in Greene County might have received something similar.

Over the past several months, home buyers and owners across the nation have reportedly been receiving similar notices from questionable companies located in several states.

Dowden said if any property owner in Greene County questions any letter or notice they receive about their property, they can come in to the office, located in the county courthouse in Bloomfield or call him at 384-2020 and he would be happy to answer questions or check out the letter.

As the county recorder, Dowden's office records all deeds and property transfers in the county and the office keeps a record of many other official transactions.

For most people, their homes and property are their most valuable investment and Dowden says he will alert the public whenever he hears of someone trying to "pull a fast one" on local homeowners.

To help protect local property owners against fraud, his office offers a "Property Fraud Alert" service.

The Greene County Recorder's Office does business with a firm, Fidlar Technologies, and they provide this service free to the county and free to homeowners.

Since the availability of the alert service was announced to the public in August, over 70 local property owners have signed up for it and Dowden is encouraging more to take advantage of this protection.

To sign up, a property owner should visit the website www.propertyfraudalert.com and select "Greene County IN" from a drop-down list of counties. The visitor will then agree to terms of service, then enter their name and address information, with up to five variations on their name allowed, and leave an email address or a phone number where their alert should be sent.

As soon as a transaction is put into the computer in the office with the property owner's name, the system will trigger an alert to be sent out. Dowden said it's very quick.

For more information, contact Dowden at the Greene County Recorder's Office by calling 384-2020 or by sending an email to stuart.dowden@co.greene.in.us .



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