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Register of Deeds adds new tool to her arsenal for combatting fraud

By Richard Rourk

Unicoi County Register of Deeds Debbie Tittle is putting the resources of her office behind an effort to strike back against fraud. 

Tittle said that she is pleased to announce the addition of a property fraud alert program to her county office. 

Tittle explained that the alert system will notify property owners and others of any activity in the register’s office that contains their name. 

“We are so thankful to be able to implement this new program,” Tittle said. “To participate, citizens need only to call the register’s office at 423-743-6104 or stop by. We will simply ask what name or names they want added to the monitoring system and obtain a corresponding email address.”

Enrollees, whether individuals or businesses, do not have to be property owners to participate, as the system identifies all types of recording transactions and is not limited to only land matters. 

Once enrolled, participants will be notified by email if there is a recording filed that contains their name. Again, it can be a land transaction or any other type of filing. 

“After discussing the fraud alert system with Mayor Evely, he advised me that it qualified for funding out of monies he obtained through a state grant which was a phenomenal blessing,” Tittle said. 

“It is our desire that the new alert system will aid in alleviating citizens’ concerns about fraudulent activity regarding their property,” Tittle added. “The program will be a valuable tool, not only in notifying participants regarding potential fraud but also as a method of confirmation when a transaction is made in reference to their property.”

Tittle said the property fraud alert program is a helpful method in property management for everyone. 

“For some time now, property owners have been receiving notifications through the mail that reference their deed or property,” Tittle said. “One notification, in particular, requests property owners to send money to get what they refer to is the “original deed” to their property for as much $105. These types of mailings are generally targeting new property owners. In an effort to prevent the owners from falling prey to the offers, we advise them in person and by mail to be on the lookout for any mailings regarding their latest transaction.”

Tittle has encountered many fraudulent schemes.

“Lately at home, I received an offer from a vacant land investor,” Tittle said. “They were offering to purchase property from us. The letter stated that they cannot buy the property for full market value. I do not know of anyone who would want to sell their property at less than market value unless to a family member. The letter was very detailed and ended with the seller signing a purchase agreement. The agreement acted as a contract for the purchase and sale of the real estate referenced by them. Even though the company may very well be legitimate, the best practice is to never sign anything in regard to your property unless you have been properly advised to do so.”

In general, Tittle said citizens should always beware of mail that is suspicious and references their deeds or property. 

“These mailings look so official that they can easily be mistaken for a notification from a government-type office,” Tittle said. “If property owners have any concerns, they should always feel free to call us at 423-743-6104. We are more than happy to assist citizens about their concerns and at the same time we can now add them to our fraud protection program.”

Tittle noted that her office’s website is currently under development, but she hopes she  can provide a link there in the near future to help people learn more about avoiding fraud.