Recorder cautions about new property deed scam
Fraud alert system available

Wanda English Burnett

Imagine, you’ve lived in your home all your life, it’s paid for, and suddenly you get notice that it’s being foreclosed on. You know you don’t have a mortgage, so why is the bank foreclosing?

While the scenario sounds bizarre, victims of property fraud are very real. According to information from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a new type of white-collar crime is cropping up across the state. In these instances, the title to a home can literally be stolen out from under the homeowner.

What these unscrupulous criminals do is create a fraudulent deed from a sample document, which are easily obtained. Then they record the deed at the local recorder’s office in the county in which the property is located, and the true owner doesn’t have a clue. Then the criminals are able to get a mortgage against the property that they don’t even legally own.

The attorney general and recorders say thieves can get by with this fraud because they will usually wait a few months after recording the deed before they apply for a loan. Months later, after no loan payments are made, the lending institution begins foreclosure proceedings. That’s when the property owner has the first inkling something is amiss.

How can this happen? Well, it’s easy, according to Tammy Borgman, Ripley County Recorder. She explained that when someone brings in a document to be recorded and it meets all the criteria set forth by the state, her office is obligated to record it. “We can’t question the document as long as it meets all Indiana recording requirements,” she noted.

But, Borgman can do something and she has. A new system called Property Fraud Alert is being offered to property owners in Ripley County through the Recorder’s Office. “This program alerts property owners when a document has been filed in our office,” noted Borgman. If the homeowner is notified in time, it is possible to stop these thieves in their tracks. Since they don’t usually apply for a loan for a while after it is recorded, there is time to stop the possibility of them getting a loan against the property.

It’s easy to apply, according to Borgman. There is no cost to the property owner for the program. You simply go online at and follow the prompts. You can enter first, middle and last name with up to five variations of spelling for each property owner. “It is very user friendly,” noted Borgman. Deputy Recorder Michelle Cutter demonstrated the process showing its simplicity.

Once your name is in the property fraud alert system, then you are automatically notified when a document matching your name entry is recorded at your local recorder’s office.

Borgman noted that people who do not have computers at home could visit their local libraries to gain access to apply for the program or simply call her office at 689-5808 and someone will assist you in getting signed up to be notified.

The homeowner will then be notified by email or telephone, the property owners preference, if someone records any documents pertaining to their property.

How concerned should property owners be? Very, according to Borgman, who says she has already dealt with a situation in the local office regarding this type of fraud.

Once someone has a mortgage against your property it is possible to get the matter cleared up. It takes a court judgment proving the deed is fraudulent. That process takes time and sometimes thousands of dollars to rectify, according to the attorney general.

When Borgman learned of the new crime that could potentially affect every property owner in the county she serves, she wanted to alert people and help protect them from being a victim. “This new system is designed to immediately alert property owners and hopefully eliminate victims,” she noted.

Deeds are public records and can be researched in the recorder’s office in the county in which the deed has been recorded. You can contact the recorder’s office for more information or to check out your recorded deeds. Records are also available to look at online for a fee. You can contact the recorder’s office for subscription fees and contract terms for online records.