The easy way to protect your property from fraud and scammers

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM told you about a local man whose property was sold without him even knowing it. Middleburg land owner John Roney told us that his nearly 3-acre lot of waterfront property was almost sold for $40,000 to a local developer by an unknown scammer.

In Roney’s case, there was an incorrect driver’s license number and a misspelling of his last name on the property deed that caught the attention of the bank at closing, right before the funds were to be handed over to scammers overseas.

“I came from out of town and there was a business card stuck in the door, it was a detective from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office,” Rooney told us.

WATCH: Northeast Florida Clerk of Courts team up against property and mortgage fraud

Property deed fraud happens when a scammer steals your identity and title, then sells your land or even your home to make a profit. It is a growing crime and 54% of real estate professionals reported experiencing it in the second half of 2023.

Clay County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller’s office wants to stop the scam as soon as it starts.

“The whole goal is to catch it before it gets to the point that you saw in your story, with that property owner in Middleburg,” Mary Justino, spokeswoman with the Clay County Clerk of Court and Comptroller, said.

RESOURCE: Florida Property Alert Service

Justino is encouraging all property owners to enroll in their Property Fraud Alert Program. Once you are enrolled, you’ll get an email or a text message if there’s been any activity on the land you own. Out of the roughly 230,000 people who live in Clay County, Justino says only 2,800 residents have signed up.

“There are instances where, I can think of three, where a person filed a fraudulent deed, and simply changed the name by one letter or to change some of the information in the address or in the text of the document by just one letter or two,” Justino said.

Justino says out of the 65,000 records recorded by Clay County’s Clerk of Court last year, 54,000 were done online and not in front of an actual clerk.

She says with so many people choosing the online option, and the explosion of cyber crimes and artificial intelligence, the extra layer of protection of a property fraud alert can make all the difference if you are the target of a scam.

“Anybody who has property in Clay County, just go to and search in the word fraud, it will open the page that allows you to sign up for free by either text, e-mail or both,” Justino said.

Similar free programs are also offered in every Florida County at their Clerk of Courts Office website. Officials in Clay add, if you are elderly, need help or just aren’t savvy with computers, you can visit the Clay County Clerks office in person, and a live person will be more than happy to help you sign up to protect what you own.

Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

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