A quitclaim deed is a legal document for transferring ownership in a property to someone else. These deeds are most commonly used by family members to transfer ownership of a house–between parents and children, among siblings and after a marriage or divorce.

Quitclaim deeds also are used by corporations to transfer a property between closely related entities or to transfer it into a family trust.

But beware: Fraudulent activity relating to quitclaim deeds has become increasingly common, and many scammers are targeting vulnerable senior citizens.

Risks at Senior Living Facilities

While anyone can be defrauded, senior citizens are often targets due to their age and sometimes precarious health.

With quitclaim deed fraud, seniors living in a senior living community are at even greater risk, since they may not notice the impacts of property fraud–such as the property changing hands–in time to stop the problem.

Who Commits Quitclaim Deed Fraud?

While the image of a sneaky professional identity thief is scary, many quitclaim deed frauds are committed by someone the homeowner knows.

For example, nursing home workers or family members could be the masterminds of a quitclaim scam. Since they have intimate knowledge of the homeowner and their financial situation, the fraud can be easier to perpetrate.

How It Happens

Quitclaim deed fraud targeting seniors can be carried out in a variety of ways:

    • Convincing the senior that transferring the property to them would be a financially sound move.

    • Using high pressure tactics or threats to frighten the senior into transferring.

    • Threatening to withdraw needed care unless the homeowner signs the quitclaim deed.

    • Forging the homeowner’s signature and having the document falsely notarized.

How It Works

In these crimes, the impostor will appear to own the property. That person could put it up for sale or use it as collateral to take out a loan.

It’s difficult for the actual owner to prove the fraud occurred, and it could involve an expensive and protracted legal case.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not allow yourself to be rushed into signing a quitclaim deed. Discuss the matter with others–such as relatives, friends or caregivers.

It’s also important to speak to a lawyer before you sign anything. An elder law attorney, in particular, should be well-versed in these issues, as they specialize in working with the elderly.

If your common sense tells you that you’re receiving bad advice and you feel pressure to sign the deed, then your initial thoughts are probably right.

This story was originally published on realtor.com(r).