One Contra Costa real estate agent won’t be signing his name – or anyone else’s – on any titles anytime soon. His last transaction, which transferred the deed of his parents’ rental property to him, turned out to be a fraud in which Walter Roberts forged his elderly parents’ names in order to gain control of the $300,000 property[1]. Roberts lived with his parents in Clayton, California, and the scam might have gone unnoticed except for a new “Fraud Notification Program” in his area that notifies homeowners automatically whenever title transfers from one person to another. Through this program, Roberts’ parents were alerted to the title transfer and subsequently discovered he had also forged his father’s name on a $28,644 check.

The notification program is the first of its kind in California, and deputy district attorney Ken McMormick says that without it, “we never would have caught [Walters] under the old system”[2]. McCormick says the speed of the alerts plays a crucial role in stopping fraud before it spirals out of control. Prior to the implementation of the system, he added, many times this type of fraud was not discovered until after the death of the homeowners whose signatures were forged and, as a result, the perpetrator would get to keep the property because it would be difficult to impossible to prove the forgery had occurred. Walters is charged with forgery and elder abuse.

Would you like this type of system implemented in your area?

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