Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT — On May 26, Henry County Auditor Shelly Barber brought a citizen’s concerns to the Board of Supervisors that he was next to suffer from quit claim deed fraud after the recorder’s office confirmed his fears of this potential.
“He is concerned that he has seen commercials on TV, and he has received two text messages that fraud is taking place with people transferring other people’s property via quit deed,” Barber said. “It has happened in Des Moines County and it has happened in Clay County and other counties.”
Supervisor Marc Lindeen confirmed that he also has received these sort of text messages.
Chase bank explains that quit claim deeds transfer the title of a property from one person to another without buyer (or seller) protections.
According to Chase, it is as simple as the grantor giving away the property by handing over the deed to the grantee.
The title is transferred, and now the property has new ownership.
Oftentimes, these types are deed transfers are used in cases of passing property between family and divorces.
“What happens is that people are making fraudulent quit claim deeds to themselves, forging the owner’s signature, using a shady notary, recording it in the recorder’s office, and then the people don’t know that they have had their property has been transferred,” Barber said.
The elderly population, real estate buyers, renters, and anyone involved with buying, selling, or owning property could be at risk of falling victim to quit claim deed fraud.
Barber believes these kinds of frauds could easily have been going on for many years as it would not be a complicated process.
“If people are frauds, they are going to try this,” Barber said.
According to Barber, the citizen who called with concerns of fraud asked the county reporter and auditor to take action to better prevent this kind of fraud.
“When we receive real estate documents in, we have to follow the real estate standard approved by Legislature,” County Recorder Mindy Fitzgibbon said.
These standards include, but are not limited to, the document being on one sided white paper, dated and notarized, and three inches of empty space at the top.
According to Fitzgibbon if a document meets the Document Formatting Standards set by Senate File 371 the recorder must record the document.
Phone numbers or quick contact information of grantors are not required.
“They have to record, they can’t hold them up for however long it takes for them to get back to you,” Barber said.
There is no requirement to check legal descriptions, however, Henry County does try to do so, as a courtesy to residents.
According to Fitzgibbon, the recorder’s office goes through their document checking process.
The auditor’s office gets a report from the recorder’s office.
Then, the auditor sends it on to the treasurer’s office followed by assessor’s office.
“There is no authentication step,” Barber said.
While counties like Scott, Des Moines, and Polk do offer free monitoring programs for residents, they cannot prevent the initial fraud.
These types of programs are designed to alert current owners if their names or properties come up in recorded county documents, so they can catch the fraud sooner, but they still will not let residents know until after the document has made it through all of the offices.
Currently, Fitzgibbon is looking into these programs and what will work with Henry County’s systems, but suggests that residents be diligent about checking The Beacon Geographical Information Systems website to ensure properties are still in the owner’s names.
Barber says for real protections to be put into place legislation would need to change.
So, be diligent.
Check credit scores frequently, as quit deed frauds are commonly used to take out large leans against homes.
Check real estate listings, and contact your legislators for change to protect private properties.