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Since 2019, Philadelphia homeowners have been able to sign up for Deed Fraud Guard, Philadelphia's free email alert service. This service sends the subscriber an email notification if their name appears in any document, such as a deed or mortgage, recorded with the department of records. The subscriber can then view the document online to determine if it may be fraudulent.

Deed fraud is when a person sells a home pretending to be the owner but without permission from the legal owner. Mortgage fraud is when a person signs a mortgage for a property they do not own. The person then borrows money against the property. In both cases, the change happens without the legal owner's knowledge or informed consent. 

Property owners register their names on the Deed Fraud Guard website. If a document is recorded with their name on it, they are notified by email. The document can be viewed, printed and saved. All property owners in Philadelphia can register for free. 

The city's commissioner of records stated that the service is not just for homeowners; notaries can also take advantage of this service. Notaries can subscribe and receive email alerts if their names appear as a notary to a document recorded in Philadelphia. 

Every document recorded in the state of Pennsylvania must be notarized by a licensed notary public. When there is deed fraud, it is common for a thief to forge the signature and official stamp of a licensed notary. That means innocent notaries can be victims, too. 

Philadelphia's service empowers notaries to identify deed fraud when they are a victim. The records department has also issued a new regulation that permits notaries to record an affidavit against the stolen property — at no cost. This puts everyone on notice that the last deed recorded contained a fraudulent notarization. 

The fraud program includes commissioned notaries in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The program includes any individual commissioned or otherwise authorized to perform a notarial act by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or an individual similarly authorized to perform notarial acts by any other state. 

Deed Fraud Guard is an exciting program and a complement to the title industry who researches and defends against deed fraud. We hope the program spreads quickly to other jurisdictions across the United States.

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