It’s no secret that there’s a lot of fraudulent activity here in South Florida, but Broward County’s made it a little bit tougher for the Bad Guys to get away with it. One easy step will keep you from having to face the nightmare of a moving van pulling into your driveway and unloading other people’s stuff. AND YOUR HOUSE WASN’T LISTED FOR SALE.

For years, I’ve read stories about people listing mansions on Craig’s List that were available for short-term rentals. The unsuspecting victims send the required funds ahead of time but find the place locked up tight when they arrive. When the absentee owner is finally contacted, he denies any involvement in the transaction.

That’s pretty bad, but yesterday at a closing I was attending, the title agent told me about something even worse that never occurred to me. Her constant worry is an absentee owner doing a mail-away closing on a Florida property that has no mortgage. How do you identify that the “seller” is actually the owner? The title agent will never see the “owner.” Everything is done through emails and wire transfers. The buyer’s acting in good faith, but the money’s gone. Yikes!

Here’s another version that relies on the fact that Florida law prohibits the records office from taking measures to validate the authenticity of a new owner. So, some ne’er-do-well forges a new deed, has it notarized, and sends it to the County Courthouse. After 2-3 weeks of processing, Bingo! They’re the new owner of record and are free to sell, mortgage, or rent the property. Double Yikes!

In March 2021, Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office took steps to alert property owners every time there is a change on a property’s title. The FREE program is called Owner Alert, and it takes about 5 minutes to sign up. All a homeowner needs is a Florida driver’s license number OR the property ID (there’s a search bar on the application form). That’s it.

To apply, go to Home page - OwnerAlert (bcpa.net).