ALERT: Fake Check Scam Reminder

Over the past several months, we have sent out a couple of alerts to remind our friends, family, clients, Realtors, investors and colleagues of the Fake Check Scam.

How the Scam Works:
The perpetrator of the scam sends you a large cashier’s check supposedly for the purchase of real property, escrow money, etc. You deposit the check. A few days later, the perpetrator contacts you to request that you send all or some of the money back because either they have changed their mind or need the money back for an emergency. You wire the funds as requested. Several days or weeks later, you find out that the check was fake and now your bank account is short by the amount you wired to the scammer.

The scammers don’t always use cashier’s checks. The scam has involved fake law firm trust account checks, fake corporate checks, and others. Many times, the fake check is mailed from Canada, and the “client” asks you to return the funds via wire to somewhere in Asia.

How to Avoid Being Scammed:
If you receive a large cashier’s check, verify with your bank and the issuing bank that the check is real before depositing it into your trust account. Contact the issuing bank by email or phone, but do not use contact information from the check. Better yet, refuse to accept large checks and insist that funds be wired to your account. Do not disburse any funds until you are positive that the check is real and that you have collected funds in your account.

How to Report the Scam:
If you would like to report the attempted scam to the authorities you are encouraged to make a report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov. Even if you did not fall for the scam, and have not suffered a loss, the FBI is interested in your facts. They may not be able to investigate every case, but they will compile the information and look for trends and common perpetrators.

Source: The Fund- Attorneys Title; helping protect their agents.

Beware of Non-Government Affiliated Trademark Solicitations!

 

blog4Please be aware that private companies that are not associated with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) are using trademark applications and registration information from the USPTO’s databases to issue trademark-related solicitations. These solicitations may include offers for legal services, for trademark monitoring services, record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and even to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.

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Some applicants have reported paying fees to these companies, mistakenly under the assumption that they were paying mandatory fees to the USPTO.  If you receive documents that appear to be from an official government agency, please be sure to read the fine print. If an address is provided, always perform a search to verify that the location is legitimate. Sometimes these companies will provide an address for a vacant building or office space. Usually, an official correspondence will be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “@uspto.gov.”

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Unfortunately, if you have already submitted any payment to these companies for services offered, the USPTO is unable to provide a refund. The USPTO encourages you to file an on-line consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), at www.FTC.gov. If you receive one of these solicitations and you’re unsure of its legitimacy, or if you are interested in filing for a new trademark, we can help! Contact us today so that our legal professionals can discuss your options.

Title Insurance Surcharge Fee To be Collected for Title Policies in Florida

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has ruled that starting September 2, 2014 all title insurance policies issued in Florida will include a separate surcharge of $3.28. The fee will be aggregated statewide for payment of claims and administration expenses for two failed domestic title underwriters that are currently in receivership:  K.E.L Title Insurance Group, Inc. formerly owned by partners of the KEL law firm in Orlando and National Title Insurance Company.
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The fee will show on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement (commonly known as the Closing Statement) the assessment fee should be charged to the party contractually responsible for paying the premium for the policy. The Assessment should be shown on a blank line in the 1100 block of the Closing Statement.

Every agent or attorney, must add this assessment on every closing beginning September 2, 2014. This is a temporary fee and will apply until the State determines it has recouped related costs and covered all outstanding liabilities for these two companies.

Premier Florida Title is proud to have been audited and approved as issuing title agents for one of the largest and most financially sound title underwriters and the Office of Insurance Regulation.

This informational article is brought to you by Gulati Law and Premier Florida Title, as we wanted to ensure our entire valued REALTOR’s, lenders, and clients are aware of these new surcharge developments and are well informed on the real estate closing and title process.

For more information please contact us for more information- Gulati Law and Premier Florida Title.

Deeds Transferring Title to Fidelity Land Trust Company, LLC Are Rescinded and Deemed Null and Void

Certain titles to homeowners’ residences deeded to The Fidelity Land Trust Company, LLC (“Fidelity Land Trust”), an LLC unrelated to Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, may be clouded. Assistant Attorney General Fulvio Joseph Gentili reports that Final Judgment has been issued against Fidelity Land Trust in the case of Office of the Attorney General v. Edward Cherry, et al, Case No. 12-269807(12)(17th Jud. Cir.), a case which involves a scheme that resulted in the execution and/or recording of a large number of quitclaim deeds or warranty deeds that have since been declared null and void.

The ruling of Office of the Attorney General v. Edward Cherry, et al may affect real property deeds recorded in many of the Clerk’s Offices in Florida, and therefore a copy of the Final Judgment has been recorded in each of Florida’s 67 County Clerk’s Offices. A copy of the Final Judgment and a copy of recording information for all 67 County recordings are attached.

Mr. Cherry and others were principals in Fidelity Land Trust. Fidelity Land Trust solicited Florida homeowners to enter a program it offered that would allegedly allow the homeowners to cancel their current mortgage in return for the payment of thousands of dollars in upfront fees. Once in Fidelity Land Trust’s program, the homeowner was required to deed his or her home to Fidelity Land Trust, which would then file a quiet title lawsuit that claimed that the existing mortgage was not valid. Many of these quiet title actions have since been held to be frivolous and without merit in numerous state and federal court decisions, and homeowners who deeded their properties to Fidelity Land Trust are finding that they have a cloud on the title.

alertOn December 17, 2013, Broward Circuit Judge Michael Gates ruled that: 1) Fidelity Land Trust’s acts and practices are unfair and/or deceptive in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and 2) all quitclaim deeds or warranty deeds executed and/or recorded subsequent to January 1, 2010 in the State of Florida transferring title to The Fidelity Land Trust Company, LLC as grantee in fee simple or as trustee or in other fiduciary capacity, are rescinded and deemed null and void ab initio (from the beginning). The Court entered a permanent injunction against Fidelity Land Trust enjoining any further attempts by Fidelity Land Trust to cancel previously recorded mortgages. The effect of this Final Judgment on title to real estate deeded to Fidelity Land Trust is significant.

By alerting FLTA, its members and others in the title insurance industry that a copy of this judgment is in all County Records Offices, the Office hopes that homeowners affected by the Fidelity Land Trust scheme who seek to remove any cloud on the title to their property may be able to do so easily based on the Court’s recorded Final Judgment.

Should you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Assistant Attorney General Fulvio Joseph Gentili at 954-712-4600 or Assistant Attorney General Sarah Shullman at 561-837-5025.

 

Courtesy of The Fund in which we are a proud member.

Florida Claims on the Rise for Fraudulent Deeds Conveying Bank-owned REO Property

Florida underwriters are seeing much more claims emanating from forged deeds on foreclosed, bank-owned properties. The issue that seems to be appearing is that the forged deeds are into trusts and the transaction insured is the one out of the trust. “Florida is ripe for this scam as the properties may sit in bank REO for many months prior to sale.

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The sequence is as follows:

  • First, the property is foreclosed, bank-owned property.
  • A special warranty deed (not a quitclaim) deed is recorded, purporting to be from an officer of the lender, often notarized by a South Carolina notary.
  • The grantee is a trust (not a trustee of a trust).  The property is not necessarily “flipped” right away; sometimes it remains in the trust for several months.
  • In all cases so far, only minimal doc stamps are paid.

Because it is easy to vary the name of the person acting as an officer of the lender and the grantee, this type of scam does not lend itself to our usual “red flag” process. It does require vigilance on the part of the lender and the title agent. The most consistent indicia of a fraudulent deed are that the grantee is a trust and only nominal stamps are paid for the transfer to the trust.

Lenders who have been victimized will be faced with filing quiet title actions to re-establish title to their properties.

If you suspect an REO deed in your chain of title is fraudulent, please check with the actual lender (not the office or officer appearing on the deed) to confirm the validity of the deed.”

Source: Attorney’s Title- The Fund Fraud Alert’s

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