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What You Should Know / March 17, 2011 -- People filing false deeds to take over vacant homes has Palm Beach County's clerk of courts warning owners to keep an eye on their property records the same way they do their credit reports. With hundreds of vacant houses countywide - fallout from the real estate boom and bust - Clerk Sharon Bock said her office is investigating an increase in suspect "quit claim" deeds filed on homes which are then rented to unsuspecting tenants or occupied by the scammers themselves. A quit claim deed transfers interest in a property to a new recipient, but offers no guarantee of clear title. Although owner signatures are required on the deed, as well as notarization, Bock said advanced computer and copier technology has made forging documents easier. "It's terrible when someone steals your identity, but imagine what it's like when someone steals your home," Bock said. "Some of this isn't just isolated incidents, it's literally criminals with the intent to defraud." It can be an expensive muddle for the true home­owner who may have to spend thousands of dollars and months in court to confirm ownership of the property and obtain an eviction.

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