‘Your story had an impact:’ News 6 investigation prompts hundreds to sign up for free property fraud alerts

Nearly 500 people in Orange County signed up for service

News 6 investigation prompts nearly 500 people to sign up for free property fraud alert service. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A News 6 investigation into a fraudulent real estate transaction has prompted hundreds of Central Floridians to sign up for free property fraud alert notifications.

William Flanigan recently discovered someone had used a fraudulent deed to take possession of a vacant lot he owns in Oakland where he is planning to build a home.

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Using the stolen identity of an Oviedo man, the unidentified thief later tried to sell Flanigan’s property to an unsuspecting buyer. A real estate broker halted the transaction when he became suspicious of the seller.

Flanigan first learned about the fraudulent deed after receiving an automated alert from the Orange County comptroller’s office that notifies citizens when an official record, like a deed or mortgage, is recorded under their name.

Less than 24 hours after News 6 published a story about Flanigan’s ordeal, nearly 500 people signed up for the comptroller’s free property fraud alert service.

“Your story had an impact,” Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said.  “That’s at least 469 people who are better protected from criminals because of your good work.”

Typically, about 20 people sign up for the free property fraud alert service each day, according to Diamond.

Similar property fraud alert programs are available in Flagler, Lake, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties.

Diamond, whose office records more than 3,000 physical and electronic documents each day, said such programs cannot prevent fraudulent paperwork from being filed.  But early detection gives citizens the opportunity to correct issues and, if necessary, contact law enforcement.

“If (the document) meets all the requirements of law, we’ve got to record it. We have no choice,” Diamond said.  “But what we do have a choice on is not being a victim. And that’s why we set up the service.”

After receiving the property fraud alert, Flanigan worked with the identity theft victim to get his name restored on the property’s title.

He also reported the fraudulent real estate transaction to law enforcement, which is now actively investigating the crime.

“That’s so great!” Flanigan told News 6 after learning his story has prompted hundreds of other citizens to sign up for property fraud alerts.  “Helping anyone not go through what I did makes it all worth it.”

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.