County of Marin - News Releases - Property Deed Fraud

For Immediate Release
October 04, 2021

New Program to Protect from Property Deed Fraud

Recorder’s Office and District Attorney team up to help prevent crime

San Rafael, CA – One of the fastest-growing white collar crimes in the United States is property fraud, also called deed fraud, deed stealing, or house stealing. The County of Marin is taking a significant step to mitigate fraudulent real estate transfers with a new program that notifies property owners when documents have been filed about an ownership transfer.

Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Shelly Scott and District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli have launched a localized program to help eliminate the trend and the two plan to update the Marin County Board of Supervisors on the program this fall.

An older woman on the left examines documents on a table as a younger woman assists her.The County is wary of potential deed fraud locally because Marin County has a large population of senior long-term generational homeowners whose homes have built up a lot of equity.

The fraud happens when a fraudulent deed is recorded against a property. In many cases, the owner may not even be aware that a deed was recorded changing ownership of their property. Under the new program, property owners or former property owners will be notified by letter about a recent filing with the Recorder’s Office. If they are aware of the transfer, they don’t need to act. If they are not aware, they should contact their  local police department or the District Attorney’s real estate fraud division as soon as possible. 

In one recent case, a New York lawyer defrauded eight homeowners facing foreclosure out of their properties worth a total of $8 million. According to a report, prosecutors said the man told his victims they needed to sign over deeds so he could negotiate with lenders to prevent foreclosure.

Title companies and the County Recorder’s Office have been handling more real estate transaction paperwork recently because of a rush to refinance home loans and take advantage of historically low interest rates. The Recorder’s Office staff only reviews requirements for recording and has no authority to refuse to record a properly prepared document even if it is suspected to be fraudulent.

“Deed fraud is a serious crime,” Scott said. “We’ve seen reports from Southern California of rightful homeowners having to spend lots of money in legal fees to resolve issues after they have been harassed by criminals. We want to be proactive with this and prevent Marin residents from being victimized.”

Frugoli said her staff is particularly focused on deed fraud because Marin has a large population of senior long-term generational homeowners whose homes have built up a lot of equity. Marin has the highest percentage of seniors out of California’s 58 counties, and preventing financial elder abuse is a shared goal with the new program.  

“These homeowners could easily be victimized by friends and/or family members,” Frugoli said. “We are happy to collaborate on this program with the Assessor-Recorder's Office. Our real estate fraud investigator will address any reported fraud or suspected fraud.”

Scott and Frugoli offer several recommendations for homeowners to protect themselves from such fraud.

  • Check the County Recorder often using the online records search tool to make sure that there are no deeds or mortgages you don’t know about on your property.
  • If your property is not occupied, check often to make sure it is not occupied illegally.
  • Ask someone you trust to look after your house if you are going to be away for a long period of time.
  • Do not let mail pile up if you are going out of town.
  • Make sure that the Assessor and Tax Collector have the correct mailing address for you or the person who should receive notices about your property.
  • Contact them if you suddenly stop receiving notices that you used to get, such as your tax bill.
  • Report suspected fraud to the District Attorney’s office immediately.

Learn more about the real estate fraud program online.


Shelly Scott
Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk
County of Marin

Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 208
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7215
Email: Shelly Scott