JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County Clerk of Courts has launched a free service to help Duval County residents maintain the security of their property.
The launch of the Property Fraud Alert system was announced Tuesday.
The free program will allow property owners to monitor a personal or business name and be notified within 48 hours whenever a document is recorded in Duval County under that name so that they can review the document to make sure it is legitimate.
“This new Property Fraud Alert is a game changer,” Clerk Jody Phillips said in a news release. “By giving individuals and businesses the ability to proactively monitor recorded documents, this will be a valuable tool to stop property fraud in Duval County in its tracks. The Clerk’s Office is honored to be able to offer this service at no cost to members of our community so that they can feel secure in their ownership of their homes and businesses.”
To sign up for Duval County’s Property Fraud Alert, visit duvalclerk.com/propertyfraud.
According to the FBI, property fraud is the fastest-growing white-collar crime committed in the United States. Scammers file fake deeds, making it appear as if they own homes that are not actually theirs and then trick people into giving them money to rent or buy those homes, and according to the Clerk of Courts, the Property Fraud Alert aims to stop this from happening.
“They’re being scammed by someone else filing a quitclaim deed on their property, taking ownership. They don’t even have to be here in this country to do that,” said Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland.
Holland told News4JAX that Duval County has seen very few cases of property fraud, saying there has only been one property fraud case about a year ago in Duval County.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Holland said. “But what we’ve seen is in South Florida and Southwest Florida this is happening very commonly.”
Holland added that even though it hasn’t been an issue locally, the alert system is a precaution to make sure it doesn’t get worse like in other parts of the state.
“I get a robocall from the Orange County comptroller’s office saying there has been some activity on your property,” he said.
Flanigan said he learned a thief forged his signature on a deed for a vacant lot he owned. He said the thief used the fake document, trying to sell his land to an unsuspecting buyer.
“I just felt hopeless and helpless,” he said.
Because Flanigan acted after being notified, the sale was stopped, and he got his property back in his name.
Locally, if you suspect that you are a victim of fraud, you’re asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500. You may also seek legal action.