Your Clients May Get Free Real Estate Title Monitoring

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Even after 40 years of specializing in all things financial, I constantly learn new things, often from readers. My most recent teacher was Eugenia (Gene) Thornton, the recorder of deeds in Kent County, Delaware. She emailed me in response to an interview on identity theft I did with Larry Light in Forbes.

I’ve written before that home title theft is a phony “threat” promoted by frantic radio commercials warning that your home can be stolen. They claim thieves can deed your property to themselves and then mortgage or even sell it without your knowledge. They want you to spend around $180 a year to buy their “title fraud insurance.” This, they promise, will “shield” your title – which means only that they will monitor it and alert you if a new deed is filed transferring the property out of your name.

Gene informed me that scores of counties offer this monitoring service for free to taxpayers. She wrote, “Many counties across the nation use software to alert property owners who register for this free service. When changes are made to recorded property documents they receive an alert. (We make no claim that the ‘house’ has been ‘stolen;’ it is merely a tool to alert property owners of a change or transfer to their title.)”

According to Gene, the software to monitor and alert owners to title transfers would cost her county $3,000 for setup and $1,200 per year thereafter. The vendor, not county staff, handles monitoring and notifications. She notes, “That’s a pretty good deal for your taxpayer dollars.”

Private companies use similar means to search for property transfers and alert their customers. The difference is that they charge up to $20 a month per property. Based on the fact these companies can afford to run expensive adds designed to scare the bejeebers out of people, I am making up a story this business is reasonably profitable.