Kandiyohi County property owners advised to sign up for fraud alerts

Jan. 29—WILLMAR

— Buying or selling a home or property can be both a cause of celebration and angst. The amount of money, paperwork and time required to do either can be mind boggling, so it would make sense to do everything possible to protect that asset.

"This is one of the most important things someone will ever buy, their home, some land," said Julie Monson, Kandiyohi County Recorder.

To help property owners in Kandiyohi County keep their land and homes safe from fraudulent activity, the county offers a free notification service called

Property Fraud Alert

.

The service provides an extra layer of security and peace of mind for property owners by notifying them, either by text message or email, when new documentation in the owner's name is received and recorded by the Kandiyohi County Recorder's Office.

"It is a free service for anyone who owns property in

Kandiyohi County

," Monson said.

If the property owner who receives the alert knows about the new document, they can ignore the alert. However, suppose news that a new document had been filed at the recorder comes as a surprise. In that case, the owner can take steps to find out what is going on and potentially stop any fraudulent activity from occurring.

"That (the alert) is their first clue something was recorded they are not aware of," Monson said.

The next step would be for the property owner to contact the Recorder's Office to find out exactly what the document is and get a copy of it. They can then contact a lawyer or police officer if needed.

Property fraud can take on many guises. Frauds or scams can transfer ownership of a property without the real owner knowing about it, they may allow a criminal to own property without paying for it or allow someone illegal access to funds or properties by creating fraudulent property documents, such as mortgages or closing documents. Such scams can cause big problems for property owners.

"Deeds and mortgages, those are the two biggest things," Monson said, adding that property fraud can go hand in hand with identity theft.

Another area of fraud that property owners should be aware of is real estate deed solicitation scams. This is when a property owner receives a letter in the mail from a source that appears official.

The mailing will say the owner needs to get a copy of their real estate deed and the alleged agency who sent the letter can help them with that, for a large fee. In most cases, the unsuspecting property owner will send the money but never receive the deed.

"They're just looking to make some quick money," Monson said.

For anyone who has gotten such a mailing, Monson said they should contact the Recorder's Office before sending any money.

When recording real estate documents, such as deeds, Monson said it is important for people to know that staff at the Recorder's Office can't verify the validity or accuracy of the document or the identification of the person providing it.

The office receives many documents through the mail or even over the internet, and there usually isn't a person standing in front of them handing over the document. As long as the document meets the state standards, it will be recorded into the system.

Luckily, Kandiyohi County has not seen significant levels of property fraud beyond the deed solicitation scams. Monson said part of the reason for that may be because the county provides the alert system. The rightful property owner can act to stop a fraud from occurring if they receive the notification from the system.

This is why Monson wants to spread the word about

Property Fraud Alert

. Kandiyohi County has about 28,000 individual property parcels, but only around 3,000 owners have signed up for Property Fraud Alert. Monson would like to see that number increase.

"It is a free service, so why not," Monson said. "It is just an alert."

For those who do not own property in Kandiyohi County, Monson said many counties in Minnesota offer Property Fraud Alert, or a similar service. Monson advises people to contact the county recorder in the county where they own property.