Celesta Mullins, Chief Deputy Recorder (seated) and Geauga County Recorder Sharon Gingrich review the new property fraud alert system at their offices on the Chardon Square.

On September 24, 2018, the Geauga County Recorder’s Office expanded its services to include property fraud alert, a free program that allows Geauga County residents to keep a watchful eye on documents recorded in our office for signs of potentially fraudulent activity. 

We live in a world where credit card theft, identity theft, and other personal crimes are prevalent. Unfortunately, property and mortgage fraud is another rapidly growing problem. The FBI refers to this scam as “House Stealing.” According to FBI reports, New York, Illinois, and Michigan are among the top ten states that are significantly affected by mortgage fraud. Ohio is right in the middle of that cluster.  

According to statistics compiled by CoreLogic, a leading provider of consumer, financial and property data, more than $10 billion in loans originated with fraudulent application data in 2010. 

Geauga County Recorder, Sharon C. Gingerich, initiated this free program called “Property Fraud Alert.” Residents are able to sign up for this program on the Recorder’s website.

How many properties in Geauga County have been affected by property fraud?
None, that I know of. This is a pro-active move. According to the FBI, it is the fastest growing white collar crime in the country. It has affected many residents in Illinois, New York, and Michigan. We are in the middle of that group. Having Property Fraud Alert is like having Life Lock for your home.

What made you decide to add “Property Fraud Alert” to your list of services?
It is a free service offered with a new vendor and I decided to take advantage of it for the residents of Geauga County. It was actually one of many reasons I decided to go with the vendor we chose. My contract was up with my previous vendor and the new one offers PFA for free. In the last two years, I have been hearing ads for the same kind of service to landowners for $9.99/month. While that is a good service, we offer the same thing for free.

Do you anticipate holding any informational sessions on this topic?
Since the beginning of September, we have been changing vendors and so no, not at this time. I just don’t have time. I normally talk about it at our Good Deeds meetings. I have had a few organizations ask me to come and talk to them about it.

When did you become aware of property fraud?
I have known about this through the Ohio Recorder’s Association for many years. 

Are any other counties that you know of in Ohio offering something similar?
Other counties offering Property Fraud Alert are Lake; Defiance; Medina; Marion; Holmes; Miami; Warren; and Scioto. Illinois and Indiana offer the program in a lot of their counties. Other recording software companies are beginning to offer it with their contracts as well, so I expect to see it in a lot of counties throughout Ohio in the next year or two.

With Property Fraud Alert, you will be immediately notified of any transactions that occur on your property. Participants can choose to be notified by email or over the telephone.   

The best protection against property and mortgage fraud is to be proactive. Signing up for Property Fraud Alert will not prevent fraud, but it will quickly alert you to activity on your property. 

Sharon is currently reading Ship of Fools by Tucker Carlson.