Property fraud is a real business for those who seek to take things from their victims illegally.

In the U.S., mortgage fraud risk jumped more than 12 percent year over year at the end of the second quarter, according to CoreLogic, which measures six fraud indicators: identity, income, occupancy, property, transaction and undisclosed real estate debt. One in every 109 mortgage applications is estimated to have indications of fraud.

Imagine wanting to use your home to help finance your child’s college education and learning that it no longer belongs to you. A charlatan took control of your title and then borrowed money against the mortgage, leaving you thousands of dollars in debt. No college education for the child and a whopping debt to get out from underneath.

No one really knows the cost of property fraud, but it does run into the billions nationwide.

So, the Wayne County Register of Deeds Office getting the Cott Systems Property Check program is powerful protection for homeowners and those seeking to purchase a home. It’s a free around-the-clock service allowing county residents to sign up on the county’s website to receive notifications of recordings on their property. The program activates alerts based on the user’s name, property address or parcel number.

As Judy Harrison, Wayne County’s register of deeds, recently told the News-Argus, “The main reason I wanted (the Cott Systems) it for was what if somebody was trying to steal your house? And they have signed your name on a deed. We (Register of Deeds Office) have no way of knowing that. But if you signed up for this property check, and you have your name on there, it is going to tell you that something has been recorded.”

Armed with this information, a homeowner can detect if some fraudulent activity is going on and contact the proper authorities, such as the FBI, the State Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Housing and Urban Development and many others.

If you haven’t signed up for the property check, please do so soon and keep the con artists away from your property. If you need assistance, call the Register of Deeds Office at 919-731-1449.