LEXINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — Property fraud is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Davidson County Register of Deeds is working to help you avoid becoming a victim of this scam.
The office has started a free property fraud alert system. People can sign up online and they’ll get an email anytime the Davidson County Register of Deeds gets a document changing the ownership of your property. Then, that person can notify law enforcement of any unauthorized changes. It’s a way to protect yourself from scams and fraud.
“All kinds of reasons that people try to take land without anyone knowing and we needed something in place to at least help to either deter it or stop it if it occurs,” said Michael Horne, Davidson County register.
The property alert system is a precaution to make sure this crime doesn’t get more common like in other parts of the country.
“If I have things in play that protect everyone then it’s not going to become a problem,” said Horne.
Scammers file fake deeds, making it seem like they own property that isn’t theirs. Then, they trick people into giving them money to rent or buy it.
Horne told FOX8 this has only happened a handful of times in Davidson County. Most recently, a Lexington woman got her 14 acres off Helmstetler Road stolen.
“Someone could show up and try to have you evicted from your own home,” said Horne. “They would be collecting the rent from it or just a whole array of problems.”
Once it’s stolen, trying to get the property back can be challenging.
“It’s a court battle and that would unfortunately be a cost and an inconvenience on the victim to prove their innocence and their ownership,” said Horne.
Horne is urging you to sign up for the program by going to the Davidson County website. All you have to do is enter your name and email address.
Horne said it’s up to you to keep up with any information filed with the Register of Deeds office because they handle hundreds of documents daily.
“We process about 120 land documents a day every day,” he said. “That’s not including everything else we do. Just the land documents. It’s virtually impossible for us to know who truly did what, said what, signed what.”
Horne wants to make it clear this is a fraud alert, not fraud protection or prevention. Even if you sign up, you can still get your property stolen. But this way, you’ll be alerted as soon as it is.