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GCN : June and July 2016
case study BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ RECORDS The Property Records Notification system allows homeowners to receive email alerts when changes are recorded on their properties Michigan county database fights real estate fraud When a single father and ex-Marine in Oakland, Mich., went to pay back taxes on his home, he was told he didn’t have to — because he no longer owned the property. A victim of real estate fraud, he had to go to court to get his house back. That case shed light on a wide- spread problem in which a blank deed is filled out claiming that the owner is transferring the property to someone else. Once the document is notarized and a fee is paid to the recorder of deeds, the document is part of the of- ficial record of ownership. Armed with a fraudulent deed, con artists can take out big mortgages and disappear. Or fraudsters can file a lien without the legitimate owners’ knowl- edge, get a default judgment in court and walk away with the deed to the property. Lisa Brown, Oakland County’s regis- ter of deeds, wanted to stop that kind of real estate fraud. She contracted with Xerox to help develop the Prop- erty Records Notification (PRN) sys- tem in which users create accounts, flag keywords they want to monitor and then sign up to receive email alerts when changes are recorded on the properties they are tracking. She said the system, which went live in October 2015, is the first of its kind. PRN sits on top of a Super Index searchable database built by Xerox and Google that the county deeds of- fice has used since 2014. Every day when officials scan new documents into the Super Index, PRN automati- cally matches requested search terms to the words in the documents. The index houses more than 12 million documents dating back to 1964. Users sign up for a free account through the Register of Deeds website and enter their search criteria, which FFLICKR.COM/KENLUND GCN JUNE/JULY 2016 • GCN.COM 47 0716gcn_047-048.indd 47 6/1/16 9:22 AM
August and September 2016