Deed Scams and Title Scams – Protect Your Senior Loved Ones

Q. My brother, Alexander, recently transferred his residence to a Living Trust Plus®.  Shortly after, he received a “Deed Processing Notice” in the mail that looks a lot like an official government bill.  It indicated that he and his wife had to pay $83 for a copy of their deed and a “Property Profile.”

The document seemed official to him, as it appeared to have the parcel number for his property (not sure if it is the right one) on it. It seemed legit to me upon first glance, as well, until I saw in very small print that “it is not a bill but a solicitation” and that he can obtain a copy of his deed from the recorder in Fairfax County, where he resides, for “up to $83.00.”

Is this something they should pay attention to, or is it a scam, as it seems? I want to make sure that they are not missing something that is required of them. I also want to make sure they don’t get duped.

Speaking of deed scams, I have heard there are others out there, as well, that are targeting seniors and other major scams resurfacing, as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about them so other readers and I are more aware, should we ever get targeted? Thanks for your help!

A. Thanks for your question. These types of Deed scams, and others, have been around for quite a long time and generate regular calls to our office from clients wondering if these solicitations are legitimate.

Anyone can become a target for scammers. We’ve all heard stories about people who have fallen for scams and lost large amounts of money. Some documents sent to homeowners by scammers can look almost identical to government documents, making it easy to think they are official.

Be Vigilant: Deed Scam Have Been Around for Over a Decade

Property owners should not to fall victim to these types of scam attempts. Deed scams involve official-looking envelopes with official-looking letters that originate from official-sounding bogus “agencies” such as Record Retrieval Department, Records Transfer Service, Local Records Office, or Secured Documents Services.

These types of scammers send homeowners letters that appear to be a bill from an official government agency for a property deed. However, despite the fact that it looks official, it’s not a bill nor is it from any government agency.

How Can This Happen?

Documentation of deeds and mortgages are public records that every county must maintain. Many counties across the country keep these records freely available online, and scammers can easily copy property owners’ names and addresses from these records and then send the fake solicitations. Their goal is to get unsuspecting homeowners to pay for a copy of a deed that they already have and just don’t realize it or don’t remember receiving it. While $83 is not a lot of money to pay for a retrieval of a copy of your deed, it is simply unnecessary for 99 percent of people.

You Should Already Have a Copy of Your Original Recorded Deed

After purchasing a home or other piece of real estate, you get the original recorded deed back within a few months after closing – directly from the Settlement Agent who handled your closing. The way it works is the title company or Settlement Agent who handles your closing sends your deed to the County courthouse to be recorded (or records it electronically); after recordation, the courthouse sends your original recorded deed back to the Settlement Agent, and the Settlement Agent then sends it to you, typically along with your Title Insurance Policy (assuming you purchased Owners Title Insurance, which most buyers do). Most people put that Deed and Title Insurance Policy in a safe location such a bank safe-deposit box or a small home safe.

If you are retitling your real estate into a living trust, as most people do in connection with good estate planning, then the law firm doing your estate planning and preparing the deed should send you the recorded deed once they get it back from the courthouse.

If you get any mailing or other solicitation asking you for money for something you didn’t request, think twice and ask someone else what they think. Consumers who receive questionable offers or have concerns about mailings that appear to be official or have governmental ties are encouraged to contact the Better Business Bureau at 1-800-646-6222.

Other Deed Scams Affecting Seniors

Deed fraud stemming from a deceased previous owner is also a scam affecting seniors. The crime, also known as “property title theft” and “identity theft house stealing,” is often committed by scam artists who regularly scan the obituaries looking for homes that are vulnerable to deed fraud. In particular, vacation homes, abandoned homes, or unoccupied homes are primary targets of deed fraud, although scammers also target homes that are occupied.

Deed fraud is the illegal transfer and recording of a real estate deed without the knowledge or consent of the legal owner. If the owner of a property dies, and the family members don’t promptly take the required action, criminals can swoop in.

Deed fraud is a type of identity theft. A criminal identifies a potential home to target and then forges the true owner’s signature on the deed as they “sell” it to themselves. Criminals can also:

  • Illegally rent out the property and take regular monthly payments from unsuspecting tenants. They could also put the home up as “rent-to-own” so the tenant believes they’re paying off their home when really the scammer is just taking their money;
  • Open a home equity line of credit in the victim’s name. This type of loan fraud enables the thief to take out equity against the victim’s home (and not make loan payments!);
  • Sell the home to a legitimate buyer and pocket the profit. This is a common approach for unoccupied vacation homes or rental properties;
  • Refinance the mortgage to cash out the equity. The mortgage lender will put a lien on the property, and the identity thief of course never pays the loan, which eventually results in foreclosure.

If you believe you are the victim of deed fraud, contact an attorney immediately. You should also monitor your credit report and freeze your credit report at all three credit reporting bureaus so that nobody can open new credit accounts in your name. To freeze your credit, contact the three credit reporting bureaus by phone or start the process online by clicking the links below.




Lastly, if you or a family member receives a notice of foreclosure from the bank when you don’t even have a mortgage, this is also a serious red flag that should be addressed immediately.

Another important action to take is to sign up for an identity theft monitoring service such as the free HaveIBeenPwned at, which lets you check whether your email address has been exposed in a data breach, or a paid service such as LifeLock, which monitors data breaches and will also take corrective action if your identity has been compromised. For more details on deed fraud and LifeLock, click here.

Other Scams/Solicitations Affecting Seniors

Besides the deed and title scams, these are just a few other major scams and solicitations affecting seniors that you should be aware of:

Government imposter scams: Scammers frequently target seniors by impersonating officials from U.S. government agencies that are often well-known or provide services to seniors, such as the Social Security Administration (SSA), among others. Scammers may claim that victims’ Social Security numbers are suspended due to suspicious activity and demand payment to resolve the supposed matter with the government. Don’t send money to these scammers and be sure to report the scams here.

Romance scams: According to the FBI, these scams grew to a record level in 2021 with $547 million in reported losses. Romance scams involve fraudsters creating a fictitious profile on an online dating app or website to establish a close or romantic relationship with older adults to exploit their confidence and trust. The scammers often solicit payments over an extended period of time and victims may also send money as the perpetrators gain the trust of the victims. The scammers sometimes troll obituaries and court records in probate to find recently widowed people who are lonely and grieving to prey on someone who may be vulnerable to a sympathetic “friend” who becomes a love interest.

Be aware that not all scammers are calling from Nigeria or another country either. Some of them show up at your door and are real, local people. Please read our other articles on senior scams for more examples of scams that target seniors.

Annoying Solicitations Affecting Seniors

Some solicitations affecting seniors are not illegal, just annoying.

Receiving solicitations from attorneys after traffic tickets: Ever get a ticket for speeding or running a light that quickly changed from yellow to red? Within a few days, you may get multiple solicitations from attorneys to defend you in court. To preface, it’s legal for attorneys to get lists from police departments or jails for recent arrestees. They then send out “jail mail” – mailed solicitation for services. Most state bars do not disallow it, so you – the consumer – can decide on whether or not you think it is a good service or preying on people. Having an attorney represent you in court on a serious traffic violation can be very important, but you should always do your own research before picking an attorney.

Receiving solicitations for those who want to buy the home after someone died: Other solicitations include those annoying postcards and mailings you get from people or companies wanting to buy properties from estates. Sometimes these even come after the property has already sold. These aren’t illegal, but annoying, and you often wonder how they got the information to send you the solicitation. Always do your own research to find your own qualified real estate agent to sell the property if you still own it and you’re planning to sell it.

Get Your Planning in Place

And speaking of planning, while keeping up with scams that are affecting senior consumers is important, it is also very important to keep up with your own planning. At the Farr Law Firm, we have strategies to help everyone plan for themselves and help their loved ones.

If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Estate Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning, or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please contact the Farr Law Firm today:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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