A quitclaim deed is a document that transfers the ownership of a property from one party to another. It's usually used for ownership transfers between family members or related corporate entities. Unlike regular property transactions, a quitclaim has no title examination and the grantor doesn't have to provide a property title that's free and clear. As a result, a fraudster can use a quitclaim deed to transfer a property that he doesn't own.
Forgery and Fake Names
A fraudster can use quitclaim deeds to make it seem like he owns a piece of property. He can use public websites to get information about the property, including the homeowner's name and her signature. He can then prepare a quitclaim deed, forge the owner's signature and claim ownership of the property using a fake name. The fraudster can use this document to get a mortgage, a personal loan or place a lien on the property. He could get thousands of dollars using this scheme. Because the fraudster uses a fake name, it's difficult for the police to trace him.
A senior citizen is more likely to leave his property vacant than someone who is younger because he may live in a retirement home or the vacant property may be a second home. In this case, he may not realize the property transfer until he happens to visit the property, at which time the fraudster may have already moved in or the property may have already been rented out or sold.
Pressure and Threats
Another way that a fraudster could use quitclaim deeds to take advantage of the elderly is by getting the senior property owner to sign a quitclaim deed to transfer the property to the fraudster. If the owner refuses to do this, the fraudster could use threats to force the owner. For example, a nurse could force an elderly patient to sign the deed by threatening to withdraw essential care.
A senior citizen can miss the deadline for tax bills and owe back taxes. His house could then become a target for quitclaim deed fraud. In this scheme, the fraudster would pay the delinquent taxes and file a quitclaim deed to claim ownership of the property. If the house is vacant, the fraudster can rent it out.
- Realtor.com: Quitclaim Deeds and Protecting Senior Citizens
- ABC: Woman Loses Home After Alleged Fraudulent Quitclaim Deeds Filed
- Miami-Dade County: Deed Fraud
- Sun Sentinel: Deed Fraud Under Scrutiny
- Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs: Investigation Leads to Jail Sentence in Scam That Took Homes from Elderly, Infirm
Edriaan Koening began writing professionally in 2005, while studying toward her Bachelor of Arts in media and communications at the University of Melbourne. She has since written for several magazines and websites. Koening also holds a Master of Commerce in funds management and accounting from the University of New South Wales.