KANKAKEE — A Kankakee County official is citing a Limestone homeowner’s experience as a reason for residents to sign up for notifications on the status of their properties.
In Limestone, a homeowner moved out of state, hiring a real estate agent, county recorder Lori Gadbois said. Not long after, a couple with a criminal history moved into the person’s house and turned on the utilities in their names, without recording a deed.
When real estate agents arrived to show the property, the couple blocked the way and threatened them, Gadbois said.
The real estate agents contacted the recorder’s office, which determined something was wrong. That’s where the office’s Property Fraud Alert system comes in, Gadbois said. Once a problem is discovered, the office can immediately send an email or phone message about an issue to the property owner.
In the Limestone case, the couple have warrants in other states for similar crimes, Gadbois said.
“They do this kind of thing and do it well,” Gadbois said. “It’s important that you, as a property owner, have the right of opportunity of knowing what’s going on. We can’t stop fraud from happening, but if we are notified soon enough, we can get on top of it and resolve it.”
Since State’s Attorney Jim Rowe took office in late 2016, the county has quickened the process of dealing with fraud.
“We can go straight to circuit court with a fraudulent situation,” Gadbois said.
The recorder’s office has offered the Property Fraud Alert system since 2010. Residents are encouraged to sign up for the free service.
“This is voluntary,” Gadbois said. “We don’t sell the information. We keep it right here.”
According to the recorder’s website, the office makes a “conscious effort” to look out for documents that might involve deed and mortgage fraud.
“Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for a criminal to record a fraudulent deed making it appear as if they now own your home,” the website says. “Once they’ve done this, they can use your name as collateral on a mortgage or even attempt to sell your home to an unsuspecting buyer.”