The California Department of Real Estate recently issued a consumer alert informing the public on what to do should they become a victim of forgery or fraud, citing proper notarization as a key element in fraud prevention.
The alert, issued in response to a growing trend of criminal fraud relating to real property deeds, educates the public on the different types of deed scams targeting homeowners, includes a list of warning signals to look for, and provides specific advice on the actions victims can take in response to fraud or forgery. The warning also provides a list of people considered high-risk targets, including:
- Senior citizen homeowners with substantial equity in their home or who own their home
- Homeowners whose first language is not English
- Those living in distressed areas with multiple abandoned or vacant homes
The DRE notes that county recorders are not responsible for verifying the validity of documents and that having protective measures in place can help prevent document fraud. It states:
“Some recorders require signers of real property deeds to provide a thumbprint, in addition to a signature, in the journal of the Notary public who acknowledged the deed for recordation. This should have a deterrent effect respecting forgeries since an imposter will not likely want to leave a thumbprint, which can later be used as evidence linking him or her to a felony crime(s).”
While only two states – California and Illinois — currently require Notaries to record thumbprints on certain transactions, the NNA recommends the practice to protect consumers and provides guidance on how to properly take a thumbprint.