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Property Fraud, a Fast Growing Crime

You may have never heard about what the FBI calls the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the nation. I hadn’t until recently. It’s called property fraud. 

How does it work? Someone creates a fraudulent document (usually a deed), records it in county public records, and illegally acquires your property. They then live in the property or attempt to sell it, usually through a website like Zillow. The properties most vulnerable to this illegal activity are vacant homes, vacant land, or rental properties. These properties aren’t always monitored by owners who may not live near them. Here’s an NBC news report about a Coral Gable woman from 2022.

How do you keep this from happening to you?

The good news is that most Florida counties have a free service called Property Fraud Alert (or PFA). These services monitor the name connected with the property and alert you when your name is part of a newly recorded official record.

Counties in Central Florida offer alert services, it only takes a few minutes. Find your county below and sign up to receive your alert.

Seminole County

Orange County

Volusia County

Besides signing up for the PFA service, you should have someone check on your property regularly if you don’t live there and the property is vacant for longer periods of time. Also, check that your county has your correct mailing address listed with the property appraiser and tax collector’s offices.

If you do suspect fraud, contact law enforcement immediately as well as the local property appraiser and tax collector offices. You may also need to find a lawyer specializing in this type of fraud.

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