Kent Recorder of Deeds offers software that detects property sale fraud


 Kent County Recorder of Deeds Eugenia Thornton now offers free registration for software alerting citizens when their names are part of her office’s property transactions. 

Links to the software are not available, as the county recovers from an incident regarding its website and information technology system. A link to property information is available.

“Statistically rare, property theft is still devastating.” Thornton said, “With ever-increasing cyber threats, better safe than sorry.” 

Many variants of property theft exist, according to a release.

“One variant is identity theft combined with exploiting the home’s equity,” Thornton said. “Thieves get the money; the unfortunate owner gets the payment requests.” 

This crime has been around for at least 15 years, first identified in an FBI publication, House Stealing, the Latest Scam on the Block. 

The US Secret Service warned of new variant in March 2023 – seller impersonation. 

Thornton knows of a dozen seller impersonation attempts in southern Delaware since she took office in January. 

“Seller impersonation hurts both owner and buyer,” she said. “Cyber thieves target vacant homes or lots, houses without mortgages, and senior citizens. It starts with a fake ID and ends with online rentals or sales where parties don’t interact face-to-face.” 

Per the American Land Title Association, the victims may not learn of the problem for years due to the types of people and land targeted. “While property cannot be ‘stolen’ through fraud,” Thornton said, “if buyers make improvements to properties not legally theirs, things get very expensive and time-consuming for everyone involved.” 

According to Thornton, Delawae state fares better than most because since Delaware attorneys perform closings.