Ocean County Offers Program To Safeguard Mortgage Documents; Protect Against Identity Theft

Noting that property mortgage fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, Ocean County officials urged residents to sign up for the Property Alert Service offered by the Ocean County Clerk’s Office.

The program, which was first introduced in 2016, offers an added layer of security when it comes to property protection, according to Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella.

The Property Alert Service is a free service that provides property owners with email alerts anytime a document affecting a specific property is recorded by the Ocean County Clerk’s Office.

To sign up for the program visit https://countyclerkpas.co.ocean.nj.us/PropertyAlert/ and follow the steps outlined on the page.

“This helps our property owners to guard against fraud,” Colabella told the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. “This type of fraud is a nationwide problem.

“Scammers record fraudulent documents like fake deeds or record fake liens against property owners,” Colabella said. “In some instances, fraud on real property is not discovered for years. To address these concerns and protect one of the most important assets a person has, my office has been offering this free service that immediately notifies you by email whenever a document with your name is recorded in the County Clerk’s Office.”

Berkeley Township Councilman John A. Bacchione recently told the County Commissioners there was growing concern in the township over this type of fraud being committed in particular because of the large number of seniors living there.

He said he was providing seniors in the township with information on the Property Alert Service.

“Our seniors are probably the most targeted,” he said.

“The Ocean County Clerk’s Office Property Alert Service is a key step in protecting your property,” said Deputy Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Gary Quinn, liaison to the Ocean County Clerk. “The County Clerk and his staff process thousands of documents annually. This program provides a layer of protection against property and mortgage fraud. This is an important service that can be accessed by our homeowners and business owners.”

Colabella said that in 2022, his office recorded more than 131,000 documents including 24,000 deeds and 26,000 mortgages.

“We have a dedicated staff that makes certain the paper work is in order,” he said. “However we are not investigators or detectives and based on the volume of deeds and mortgages recorded monthly, it’s not impossible for some items to be potentially fraudulent.

“By signing up for the property alert service, you will be notified by email whenever a document is recorded affecting your property. You can review the record to determine if it’s correct or if it’s fraudulent,” Colabella said. “It adds some peace of mind for our property owners.”

Colabella said about 4,000 property owners have signed up for the service.

“It’s as simple as registering your name or business name and your email address and you will be automatically notified electronically if a document is recorded with your name,” Colabella said.

Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari, chairman of the Office of Senior Services, urged property owners, especially seniors, to sign up for the program in order to prevent potential scams from affecting them.

“This program helps our seniors and their caregivers in making certain there is no fraudulent activity taking place,” Vicari said. “Ocean County is home to more than 200,000 senior citizens. This is yet another way the County can offer some protection against scammers.”

Colabella noted that unfortunately identity theft is a growing consumer complaint and property fraud which is a form of identity theft is on the rise.

“While this service can’t prevent fraud, it’s important to be notified early that someone may be trying to steal your property without your knowledge,” Colabella said.

He added that the only time recordings can be refused is when statutory guidelines are not met.

“As long as a document meets statutory recording guidelines, New Jersey law requires the Clerk’s Office to record the document,” he said. “I am pleased we offer this program to help our constituents detect information that may be fraudulent.”


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