Title fraud victim hopes new Maricopa County Recorder service will prevent future scams

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Thursday, June 1, 2023 - 10:45pm
Updated: Friday, June 2, 2023 - 12:27pm

Jerry Gotlieb, Debi Gotlieb
Debi Gotlieb
Jerry Gotlieb, Debi Gotlieb's late father, is seen here standing in his home.

This week, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office announced a new, free service called Maricopa Title Alert. It works like Google Alerts, and monitors document recordings of names entered into the system. For example, when the name of a person or business has been removed and replaced on a property title.

It’s an effort to fight title fraud, and one county resident said she wishes it existed sooner.

Debi Gotlieb is the designated broker at Key Results Realty and has been working in real estate for almost 30 years. But even she was a victim of title fraud in late 2019.

“It happened on Nov. 12. I found out on Dec. 19,” Gotlieb said.

Jerry Gotlieb, Debi Gotlieb
Debi Gotlieb
Jerry Gotlieb, Debi Gotlieb's late father, during his military service.

Her father, who died in March of 2018, owned a house in Scottsdale. Gotlieb said she and her brother were arranging to go there and begin sorting through his belongings.

But when she checked tax records for the property, “What I discovered was that Zillow owned the house.”

A man posing as Gotlieb’s father had fraudulently signed a deed in California in November 2019, forging her dad’s signature to transfer ownership of the house to himself.

By the time she discovered that the fraud occurred, Gotlieb said it was too late to save her father’s belongings.

She said the man sold the house to Zillow. He then gave them clearance to clean out the house and dispose of everything her father had owned.

Gotlieb said she doesn’t want anyone to go through the same thing.

“I'm actually starting to work to try to put some laws in place because it's such an easy crime that it's ridiculous,” Gotlieb said.

Gotlieb says guarding against title fraud goes beyond the county recorder’s scope, but the free alert service is a start.

“If I would have known on Nov. 12, I think they would not have cleaned out my dad’s house,” Gotlieb said. “And I could have started the whole process of getting the house back much sooner.”

The front yard of a Scottsdale home is seen here. The house is white with a garage and small amount of grass in front of it. The photo also shows a mailbox, closest to the camera. The house is a light color and the roof appears to be dark teal.
Debi Gotlieb
Gotlieb said her father had owned this house, but died in March of 2018.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story contained a quote from Debi Gotlieb about who cleaned out the house and disposed of her father’s belongings. Gotlieb has clarified her statement, and the story has been updated to reflect that she says the man who committed the fraud gave Zillow permission to clean out the house and dispose of her father’s belongings.

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