KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You’ve heard of stolen cars, now Kansas City, Missouri is dealing with a new problem on the rise. Someone stealing your entire home.
Now that crime trend has the attention of Congress. Both Jackson County and federal officials Monday sounded the alarm that someone could pretty easily walk right through the Jackson County Recorder of Deeds Office and steal your home.
You work hard for maybe 30 years to pay off your home, but in a matter of moments it can be gone.
“If the average homeowner had any idea about how vulnerable they are there would be panic,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Missouri, said.
Linda Peak knows that emotion. She went to sell her home only to find out according to documents at the Jackson County Recorder of Deeds she no longer owned it, she previously told FOX4 Problem Solvers.
“Did you sell the house and I said no and she says someone has stolen your house.”
Jackson County’s Recorder of Deeds has logged 154 suspicious activity reports over the last four years. It’s unclear how many more people may have no idea their homes have been stolen, because as Cleaver said he learned after meeting with KCPD, it’s so easy.
“Someone could almost do it and go out in the hallway and wave the paper and say hey I took your house,” Cleaver said.
He says the system is set up to benefit fraudsters. The county recorder is not responsible for verifying the validity, authenticity or legitimacy of the document that is recorded and pursuant to state law must accept it if its been notarized.
“There is no picture ID required, there is no fingerprint required all someone has to do is forge your name,” Cleaver said.
What’s more since, cameras aren’t allowed in the office it can be difficult to catch those responsible. Only last month was an alleged fraudster featured by FOX4 Problem Solvers multiple times finally charged.
“This is a problem that can be fixed it may not be fixed easily and quickly,” Cleaver said.
Cleaver is working with the Office of the Legislative Counsel to see what can be done at a Federal level, but say it may come down to lobbying state lawmakers to enact new requirements.
So what can you do to protect yourself? First know the warning signs. If the county suddenly stop sending you a tax bill, don’t rejoice that’s not a good sign. Also take notifications of changes in loan or real estate documents. Finally, and most importantly, check public records to make sure no one else owns your home according to the county.
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