HANCOCK COUNTY — Property fraud and identify theft are far to real nowadays, officials say.

Just Thursday, officials with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department sent out a fraud alert to county residents to be on the lookout due to an individual contacting real estate agents throughout the county attempting to list property with them for sale.

“This subject is not the property owner, but is posing as them,” officials said.

The Indiana Attorney General has been contacted and is working with other agencies and counties on this scam.

It’s one of the reasons why county office holders, spearheaded by Hancock County Recorder Marcia Moore, have brought forth a new detection measure for real estate and property owners to use as a safety net.

It’s a website, linked through the recorder’s office, allowing county residents to sign up for alerts to monitor their home or property in case someone attempts to steal a house or land out from under them.

The Hancock County Commissioners approved the contract agreement with a company called Equity Protect, at no cost to the county, during a recent May meeting.

 Marcia Moore, Hancock County Recorder

“It is something I feel is important to real property owners in Hancock County because, unfortunately, there are some bad people out there,” Moore said.

The decision by the county commissioners allowed the Recorder’s office to sign on with Equity Protect to give county property owners the opportunity to obtain a free report showing their risk level for property fraud.

The report will break down the risk of theft into four categories: low, medium, medium-high, or high. After reviewing the results, the property owner will then have the option to decide if they would like to sign-up for a paid service offering fraud prevention and monitoring, or stick with free services also available.

The decision by Moore to make county officials aware of the need earlier this year for such a service comes after recorders across the state sounded an alarm about property fraud — and highlighted the free tool to monitor it for all Indiana residents.

“We have a free monitoring third party vendor called Doxpop, which has a primary function to provide copies of deals to both users, like the mortgage companies and property owners, ” Moore said. “They offered us a free service that will allow for an email if a document is recorded, which is great if you live in a neighborhood with a specific legal address.”

However, Moore noted for homeowners throughout the county who live within a specific range of a piece of land or home being sold, they too can often get alerts for any type of land purchase in the area, which sent out many false alarms to home owners.

“This new company Equity Protect is legal specific and personal specific which allows for someone to go in and put their parcel number on there,” Moore said.

Equity Protect will allow someone to sign up for a free email, pretty much how Doxpop does, but it also allows for more property theft protection if the land or home owner deems it is needed.

“They’ve got a product that is similar to a LifeLock (identity protection) type of thing,” Moore said. “It’s good for people to understand their risk, because not everyone is at risk of property fraud.”

For people who have recently purchased a new home and have a large mortgage, Moore noted that chances are no one is going to try and steal that land.

“People who are at risk are the ones who may have some vacant farm land, or maybe a vacation rental somewhere, or have paid off their mortgage,” Moore said. “Those are the type of property owners who are more at risk.”

Moore noted that property fraud alert does not prevent fraud from happening; rather, it serves as an early detection system so property owners can determine if anything criminal is taking place.

“We get more and more calls all the time because people are afraid of losing their property nowadays, and I like these types of services because they offer a risk analysis and they can determine if they are comfortable with that risk if it’s zero or 100,” Moore said.

Moore is on a legislative committee with other state recorders and noted the group of recorders is hoping to work with state officials in the upcoming legislative session to make property fraud a tougher crime.

“We don’t want it to be just a slap on the hand,” Moore said. “In the meanwhile, we’d like to provide the community some options.”

To check out the site and see what types of home and property monitoring measures are available Moore has provided a link at, https://www.hancockin.gov/636/Mitigate-Property-Fraud-Options or for more information visit or call the recorder’s office at (317) 477-1142.