Residential property can be very valuable and it is easily transferred - easily if you're a criminal and know the system. But soon there will be a computerized property alert system to help prevent fraud.
Property transfers are notorious for the complexity and the paperwork, even for a single home. They were once done around tables in the Erie County Clerk's office, with papers shuffled and checks passed. Ultimately, the property is transferred from one side of the table to the other.
Now it's all done somewhere else, in computers using computerized records, and there are those who would take advantage of the nature of the web to take someone else's property.
"You can't close the deal without that property going on record. So it's one extra step that New York State has mandated that we do in the clerk's office and I think it's a good step," said Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns.
Kearns is talking about New York State's new mandate, which requires a form to go out to anyone selling or transferring ownership of residential property listing the transfer.
"The reason why I proposed the property alert system was that there's always that possibility that something can happen fraudulently," Kearns said. "You do the best that you can. Remember, we just process the paperwork here at the clerk's office. We don't validate it. So if you have someone in here, there always is the possibility. We do our best to stop that, but there's always that possibility."
Right now, the notices are handwritten on paper forms. Kearns said the property alert system will be a computerized system of notifications of these transfers, but it isn't quite ready for primetime yet.
"Most of the information in the Clerk's Office is public record, so it's very easy for people to get that public record and to send out a letter or notice," he said. "But the conveyance letter that you received or anyone receives after a transfer or property, that was done through state legislation."