House Stealing

As I understand it, the thieves look for a house that’s been vacant for awhile, forge an SS card and other docs based on the owner’s information, file a deed transfer at the county recorder office and then sell the house to an unsuspecting buyer or strip out the equity.

This sounds like it’s not incredibly common, or else we would be hearing more about it. But since I have a vacant unit right now I’d thought I’d ask. I was wondering if there were steps that could be taken to make this harder for someone to do if they tried.

Does anyone know personally of a case where this has happened to someone you know, or in your area.

File your own lien. Free and clear property is at risk for this type of thing.

BLL, could you elaborate? Do you mean take out a HELOC, or do something else? Thanks.

A HELOC works. You could also use some type of equity stripping plan.

A fake mortgage may work, but I don’t like doing things like that.

Will just checking with the deed recorder on a regular basis and then filing a quiet title if someone puts a lien on the house work? I don’t think I can get a HELOC.

I think so, but I can’t say for sure because I don’t know what will happen in court. Also, an action to quiet title can be expensive.

Thanks. I’ve heard it’s expensive.

Is there any point in transferring a property into a land trust after you’ve already bought in your own name? Or does it lose all effectiveness because there’s then a past trail in the public records of who owned it before it was transferred?

Here’s what will happen. The most recent name on title is going to get sued and spill his guts about who bought the property. Even buying directly in trust doesn’t help much in this case. It just keeps nosy people away, but not a determined PI.

BLL: I don’t mean if the land trust is sued (I know it doesn’t provide any protection on it’s own). I just mean to keep snoops away like the “house thieves” types, so they move on to an easier target.

(FYI, I think there’s something wrong with this site lately–when I try to quote someone in my post, the screen acts up)

You need the public record to show no equity. A land trust doesn’t do that. You need some kind of lien.


How exactly do these people find out whether the property has equity in it or not? I’ve looked in the public records online for my county at a bunch of properties and the mortgage information isn’t available. Do they use MLS access to do this? Also, I thought a land trust hid the owner of the property? Doesn’t that make it harder for someone to commit fraud by making a bogus quit claim, since they have to sign someone’s signature to do it?

Go to the registry and see what information is available there that is not available online. There are also private investigators that can get all kinds of private information. Some of their methods are legal and others are not.

I don’t see the value of the MLS other than to find FMV of comps of the target property.

It is only hidden from the casual observer using an online search, but some states require the trustee’s name to be in the public record. If anything happens, the trustee will get served and he will divulge the owner as part of discovery. Land trusts are better for estate planning purposes than privacy. I also find it easier to manage property via separate trusts than a single entity.

They have to sign something no matter who owns the property. The trust is actually easier because they can forge a trust agreement much easier than they can steal someone’s identify.


Have been investigating how crooks are able to steal someone’s property since I read a few articles on what is going on. At first it seemed unrealistic until it dawned on me how easy it is and how they do it.

Put up a web site so that I could show it to county recorders offices or wherever deeds are filed to get their feed back on how to stop someone from stealing a house or houses.

Still in the early stages of investigating as is seems there needs to be a software tie in to the recorders office to flag a fictitious deed from being filed.

Anyway yes, it is a crime that is on the rise and reading reports better than dealing drugs, more money and less time in jail if they are caught.

John $Cash$ Locke

Yes, it is disturbing how easy it is to do. It’s not something that’s keeping me up at night but it is something that’s of concern.
What exactly does Castlelocke do though, if you can reveal it on a public forum? The other service I looked at (ePropertyWatch, I think) just monitors the public records for you, which you can do yourself online. And that doesn’t prevent any of this from happening in the first place. Thanks.


First of all trying to monitor the public records online will not reveal immediately if a property has been sold. As part of my research I monitored a property online that was sold in South Florida and it was weeks before the transfer showed up online.

Still doing research on how to stop this from happening, basically it would be a software program that would flag the recorders office when someone tries to file a deed. In other words when the recorder types in the information of a transfer a red flag would come up that the owner of a property needs to approve the transfer via CastleLocke.

Still doing research as time permits, even put up a test web site that shows how I envision the program to work.

John $Cash$ Locke

$Cash$, that sounds like a great idea, but how would it work? Does the county deed office have to go along with it? I spoke to my county office a couple weeks ago and it was like talking to a stone wall. They seemed unconcerned about the whole issue.


You have hit on the biggest part of the problem, most recorders office’s don’t care that someone can steal another persons house, however I am working on something that may change that.

Really a shame that this can happen with all the modern technology that is out there, yet is oblivious to those that should be protecting our best interests.

John $Cash$ Locke

Isn’t this where title insurance can protect you as the buyer? Or does it just protect you in the chain of title up until the purchase?

I think your Title_Lock idea is terrific if you can make it work. It’s going to take an attorney or two to protect you from losses.



Title insurance protects you up to the time you purchase the property. In other words if a title defect is found after the time of closing then the title insurance would kick in, but only would protect prior to purchase in the chain of title.

My ideas are just in the development stages as I said, but something that really needs to be done to protect the home owner. Put together some ads for demonstration purposes only, in other words just trying to get a feel from recorders offices on how they assess the problem.

John $Cash$ Locke

The interesting thing is that there was a recent string of these in the Fort Lauderdale area. Apparently the thieves used adverse possession as their justification for taking the homes and putting their own “renters” in there. They put some kind of official type notice on the door of the houses about it being abandoned and then took them over a couple of weeks later when the homeowner didn’t respond to their notice. It seems like an alarm system is one step that could be used in a vacant house to at least know if these types are trying to break in and squat, although that won’t solve the quitclaim problem.

From what I know, the people most at risk are elderly and out of state/area owners of vacant properties, although it can happen to anyone.

I think keeping the lawn maintained and putting some timer lights inside the house can be useful to make people think it’s not abandoned. That’s what I’ve been doing.