Colorado county creates alert system to warn of potential property fraud

Pueblo County, Colorado, which encompasses an estimated population of about 170,000 people in and around the city of Pueblo, is sounding the alarm over potential fraud by creating a new alert system designed specifically to protect property owners.

The announcement was made by the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and reported on by the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper and a local NBC News affiliate.

“Across the nation, there has been a recent increase in mortgage and property fraud, where a person files fraudulent deeds, mortgages, or other liens against a property without the owner’s knowledge or consent,” county clerk and recorder Candace Rivera said in an interview with the Chieftain.

Property owners will now be notified whenever the clerk’s office receives an application for any kind of property lien, which will give owners the opportunity to respond if fraudulent activity is suspected.

“In Pueblo, we just started implementing this new process. (Locally) it hasn’t become an issue just yet, although we’ve had a couple since I’ve been in office,” Rivera told the newspaper. “We can’t prevent the fraud, but it will add a layer of protection for citizens.”

Tenth Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner added that the most likely victims of these kinds of property fraud are elected officials, who are often targeted by “discontented political activists,” including so-called “sovereign citizens” who believe the laws of the U.S. do not apply to them.

The reporting explicitly mentions reverse mortgages as a potential source of a fraudulent lien.

“Discuss with your trusted family members before making any decisions that affect ownership of your property, such as adding or removing someone from a deed or taking out a new mortgage, reverse mortgage or second mortgage,” the Chieftain reported. “If you feel it prudent, you may want to consult a lawyer.”

Sources of fraud can come in the form of investment opportunities or scams that specifically target senior homeowners, including from bad actors who claim to be reverse mortgage proprietors, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of the Inspector General.

Seniors are typically targets of bad actors, something that is often highlighted by U.S. government agencies including HUD, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPFB maintains a dedicated office to examine instances of elder financial abuse.