95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kent County addressing alarming real estate scam with 'Fraud Notify' system

A home for sale.
Steven Senne
A for sale sign is displayed in front of a house in Westwood, Mass. Home prices hit a new record in October as the number of homes for sale hit an all-time low.

Criminals are altering real estate records with the Kent County records office and cashing in when they sell the property.

“We literally are following up on possible scam reports of property fraud nearly every day and that is no exaggeration.”

Julie Reitberg is Chief Executive Officer at the Greater Regional Alliance of REALTORS.

“It’s sophisticated organized crime.”

The criminals pose as a seller with a legitimate property they list for sale. Convincing potential buyers using fake drivers licenses and notaries and a story they’re out-of-state. Once the documents and deed are signed the money is gone and the victims find out after the fact.

“For example, it’s when equipment shows up on their land that starts digging up their property for development, or purposes or otherwise, and they say, ‘Wait a minute. What’s happening to my property?’ And they find out that somebody bought it. And they had no idea that it happened.’

Outstanding mortgage debt the victims’ responsibility.

“This is very real, and it can happen to any homeowner, any property owner, any business owner and that’s why Fraud Notify is for all property owners.”

Lisa Posthumus Lyons is Kent County Register of Deeds.

“Fraud Notify is so easy and it’s free to sign up. I actually just signed up my property just this morning. It took me five minutes.”

The service alerts subscribers via email whenever a document bearing their name, or any other name they’ve designated, is recorded within the Kent County Register of Deeds Office. If a subscriber suspects fraud, they can immediately contact law enforcement.

You can register at accesskent.com/fraudnotify.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.