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Those who don’t have a mortgage are particularly susceptible to fraudulent acts. Check out this free service being offered by the county to alert you! Hat tip just some guy!

Is title lock insurance a good investment?

Such insurance usually costs from $12 to $20 a month. But the San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk’s office now is offering the monitoring service at a far better price — free.

An announcement was made Friday that a real estate fraud notification service called “Owner Alert” is being activated for all homeowners who sign up for the service and register their parcel number.

“We timed this with the mailing of property tax bills,” says Jordan Marks, chief architect of the new service, noting that parcel numbers are easily available on the bills.

Through an electronic monitoring program, the county will notify property owners whenever their title is changed or a lien is attached.

“My goal is to sign up every San Diego property owner,” says Marks, chief deputy assessor. Marks, a Republican, is running against Democrat Barbara Bry to succeed retiring Ernest Dronenburg as head of the county’s Assessor-Recorder-Clerk’s Office in the Nov. 8 election.

Title theft is rare, but it does occur.

Patrick Ojeil, deputy district attorney in charge of real estate fraud in San Diego County, has 38 cases of potential title theft now under investigation.

Most of the time, he says, it is a family member or someone who knows the victim, such as a neighbor, a caregiver or an acquaintance, who tries to hijack the property title. But not always.

In 2015, a high-profile case came to light involving the bizarre theft of the title to Petco Park, appraised at the time for $539 million. A man, later determined to be mentally ill, had assumed title to the ballpark in 2013 by simply walking into the county recorder’s office and filing a fraudulently notarized title transfer form.

After the nefarious deed was discovered, perpetrator Derris McQuaig was charged with a felony. But a judge dismissed the case when McQuaig was determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. Instead, he was committed to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County.

No evidence was uncovered that McQuaig had plans to financially benefit from the title transfer, or that it was part of a larger scam. Nevertheless, it created a bureaucratic and legal headache for the city and the Padres and a challenge to get the title properly re-recorded.

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