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Bad Deeds How Con Artists are Scheming to Steal your Home

Updated: May 7

by Attorney Nathan Begley

Recently, I have encountered two "Deed Scams" in the Portland area that I want you to know about so you can protect yourself.

On March 27th, Willamette Week published a story about a man in the St. John's neighborhood whose house was nearly stolen by use of a fraudulent deed filed in the Multnomah County Recorder’s Office. A fraudster had forged the signature and notary seal on a fake deed and were it not for vigilant neighbors, the stolen house may have been sold to innocent good-faith purchasers, or mortgaged to a bank, creating further harm. If you own unoccupied property, you need to make sure you or someone you trust is keeping an eye on it, both physically and at the title office. Here in Multnomah and Clackamas counties, you can check the tax records to see if there have been any recent changes to your deed, you should do this every six months.

One thing you can do to protect yourself from this sort of theft is to put your property into a Trust so that only the Trustee of the Trust has permission to sell the property. That way a title agent will need to see evidence of the Trustee's authority before allowing the sale to close, potentially catching or halting the fraud in its tracks.

However, a real deed can be just as bad as a fake one. Another scam I have run into lately is where the buyer (usually an Investor or Real Estate Professional) has the seller sign a "Contract for Deed" that is flagrantly in favor of the buyer and then the buyer records it with the county. Then, the buyer continues to negotiate the price down lower and lower knowing that the seller is trapped and will have to pay exorbitant fees or go to court to get out from under the contract for deed.

One man I met had to file bankruptcy to try and protect his house from being sold for half its worth! To counter this, I have included a clause in my Trusts that doesn't allow your residence to be sold unless the property is appraised and the sales price is within a reasonable percentage of the value. Guaranteeing you sell your home for fair market value protects you and your loved ones from fraud and can help ensure you keep eligibility for government benefits in the future.

To help fight fraud, Good Advice Law is offering real estate contract review for a flat fee of $150. Before you sign your rights away, make sure you have been advised by a licensed attorney as to what it is you are signing.

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