To combat the increasing instances of deed fraud in Philadelphia, City Records Commissioner James Leonard began indexing notaries’ information on all documents recorded from summer 2019 onward and created a searchable notary database.
In order to create a larger database, the City Records office is also indexing notaries on deeds going back from summer 2019 for approximately five years. They are currently indexed back to January 2018.
This database, PhilaDox/E-Web, now allows the public to search at no cost by name (grantor/grantee), property address, and notary. Users can click on a document and view a watermarked unofficial copy, which shows the recorded information, i.e., date and grantor’s signature. This provides notaries with a tool to check to see if their identities have been stolen. Printing the actual document or indexed information is not allowed unless the user paid for a subscription.
“It is very easy for your signature and stamp to be stolen off of a document that’s in the public record,” said Marc L. Aronson, president and CEO of PAN. “Most of this thievery is being done by non-notaries. When your signature and stamp are used on a fake real estate document or deed and recorded in the public record, eventually, the real owner of the property discovers that their property is no longer theirs.
“With the PhilaDox site, you can type in your name and actually see the document. This allows Philadelphia notaries to check whether their names and signatures have been used fraudulently.”
James Leonard said his next goal is to incorporate notary notification into their free Fraud Guard tool so notaries will receive automatic email alerts instead of having to log into PhilaDox to check.
Philadelphia notaries who use PhilaDox and find that their identities have been stolen should contact the Department of State at www.dos.pa.gov. They should also file a police report. PAN members who find that their information has been stolen should also contact Marc L. Aronson at 1-800-944-8790, ext. 113, or email him at [email protected].
The web address for PhilaDox is https://epay.phila-records.com/phillyepay/web/about.jsp. For additional resources about deed fraud, go to https://www.phila.gov/services/property-lots-housing/get-help-with-deed-or-mortgage-fraud/sign-up-for-deed-fraud-protection/