2015 Legislative Update for Real Estate Licensees

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The California Bureau of Real Estate has released its 2015 Legislative Update.  The legislative summaries provided are of recently signed bills that affect real estate licensees and subdividers.  Read it here.

The Bureau’s 2016 Real Estate Law book will be available online January 1.  The hard copy, along with accompanying CD, is expected to be available for purchase by early February for $25.  To order, download a Publications Request Form from their website at www.bre.ca.gov.

 

 

Real Estate Fraud Could Rob You of Your Home or Property

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Do you own a home or property free and clear or have a large amount of equity in it?

If so, you could become a victim of real estate fraud.

In this scheme, criminals fraudulently record a lien against the property or illegally transfer the deed to the property to themselves or a third party. Depending on what county you live in, the fraud may not even be uncovered until the property goes into foreclosure or a property owner attempts to sell or refinance their property.

Unfortunately, elderly homeowners and non-English speakers are often targeted for this type of fraud. With seniors, criminals create a fake Promissory Note showing that the senior owes the crook money and then a fraudulent Deed of Trust is created that secures the Promissory Note. The fraudulent documents may not surface until the senior dies.

Wayne Bell, California Bureau of Real Estate Commissioner, said, “White-collar criminals are using a variety of fraudulent deed schemes to steal properties from their owners in order to re-sell or rent those properties, borrow money against those properties, or obtain lien rights that will be paid off upon the true owners’ death.”

Warning signs of deed fraud

If you receive a mailed notice or become aware of:

  • A recorded document on your property where you never signed the document and your signature was forged;
  • A recorded document on your property where ownership or a portion of ownership in your property was transferred or sold to another party without your knowledge;
  • A recorded document on your property where the signer of the document was deceased at the time of execution of the document;
  • A loan was taken out on your property without your knowledge; and
  • Changes or alterations were made to a recorded document after you signed it.

Or if you:

  • Stop receiving your property tax bill or notices;
  • Receive a Notice of Default or Notice of Trustee’s Sale when you own your home free and clear of a mortgage loan, or when you have a mortgage and you are not late on your loan payments;
  • Receive loan documents in the mail for a loan that was obtained without your knowledge; and/or
  • Receive real estate documents in the mail for a transaction on your property that you didn’t know about.

What to do if you become a victim

You must act immediately.

  • Gather and collect all of the information, documents and other evidence you have.
  • Contact the police, sheriff’s department or law enforcement agency where the property is located.
  • Contact the City and District Attorney’s Office where your home/property is located.
  • Contact the office of the recorder in the county where your property is located.
  • Contact your local city or county department of consumer affairs.
  • Contact your title insurance company. A title insurance policy may have been purchased on your property when you first bought your property and you may have insurance against forged deeds. A title policy with forgery protection may be able to help you get the fraudulent deed removed from the record via civil litigation and/or to cover certain costs up to the policy’s coverage limits.
  • Contact the California Secretary of State, Notary Public Section at (916) 653-3595 or sos.ca.gov/business/notary/.
  • Contact the California Bureau of Real Estate at bre.ca.gov if a real estate broker or salesperson, or unlicensed person purporting to be a real estate licensee, is involved in the forging of any deed or fraudulent recording of a false, fictitious, or forged deed. The Bureau has a Consumer Recovery Fund that may be able to compensate you (up to statutory limits) if you meet certain requirements.

How do you fix it?

Because of the “cloud” on your home title created by fraud, an action in court must be started to “quiet” title to the property. That is the legal term which refers to cleaning, cleansing or clearing the title to the property’s official records by invalidating the forged, fraudulent and improperly recorded deeds and documents.

Sometimes a city attorney or district attorney may be able to obtain a court order quieting the title in connection with a criminal prosecution of the criminals or fraudsters for forgery, grand theft and other criminal counts.

If that is not a possibility, you should contact, meet with and hire a knowledgeable California attorney to bring a quiet title action. If you cannot afford a civil litigation attorney, you should call the State Bar of California or a local county bar association and ask for a referral to a public interest law firm.

The important thing is for you to act immediately to protect your ownership rights.

Deed fraud can scam you out of your home or property, so stay informed about the status of your property title and records. Property owners should periodically check title to their property, the same way they check their credit report. Also, if you are purchasing a property, ask the title company about protections and risks covered under their policy.

This post was based on a California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) alert titled “Consumer Alert: What Should You Do If You Learn that a Forged and/or Fraudulent Deed Has Been Recorded Against Your Real Property” written by Commissioner Bell and attorney Summer Bakotich. To view the document, click here.

 

 

Say ‘Ho-Ho-NO’ to Holiday Scammers

Scams_textingWe all want to give this season, but consumer protection organizations want to warn you to be leery of unintended recipients.

Here’s a roundup of common year-end cons designed to steal your money, your identity, or both:

Fake websites: These often promote amazing online deals for popular merchandise, but only exist to collect your payment card or personal information, which scammers use to purchase merchandise elsewhere or commit identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests doing a price-check on conventional online retailers (such as Amazon) before entering payment information on what looks like a too-good-to-be-true item. Look at the “contact us” information: If no phone number is listed or it doesn’t work, that’s not a good sign. Also check the site’s registration details at WHOis.net. It should provide phone numbers for administrative and technical contacts so you can verify the site is real.

Bogus charities: Scammers will prey on your generosity with donation requests via e-mail, phone, social media, and texts. Ask for contact information, and before you give, check the legitimacy of the charity on sites like the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB’s) Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator. Pay by credit card if you can—if the charity turns out to be a scam, you can dispute the charge.

Gift card fraud: Fraudsters copy the codes on gift cards and place them back on the rack for an unsuspecting person to buy. They then periodically check online or by phone to find out if the cards have been purchased and loaded with funds. When they get a hit, the scammers will use the codes to drain funds from the cards. The FTC says avoid buying cards with signs of tampering—scratches on the card or exposed PIN numbers. Be careful buying gift cards on online auction sites—they are known to be used by scammers to peddle counterfeit gift cards. Keep receipts for all of the gift cards you purchase. If you find out later that funds have been deducted from the card improperly, having a paper receipt can help you recover lost funds.

Chip card scams: Many credit issuers and banks are issuing credit and debit cards that contain chips designed to reduce fraud. Watch out for scammers posing as the card issuer and asking for personal information via e-mail in order to send you your new chip card—there’s no reason for it, says the FTC. The issuer can just send you a new chip card. If you’re contacted in this way, call the phone numbers listed on your actual credit card to ensure it’s for real.

Social media gift exchange: Buy one gift and send it off to a stranger and get back many more. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? But the BBB warns it’s just a variation of a pyramid scheme and it’s illegal.

Home delivery scams: These operate in a couple different ways. In one method recently reported by the FTC, scammers send you a “delivery failure notification” via e-mail. It says you missed delivery of a package but if you download an attached form or click on a given link, you can provide the information or fill out the form, and you’ll be able to retrieve your package … except there isn’t one. And by clicking these links or downloading attachments, you’ll likely infect your computer with a virus or install malware on it. Other signs it’s a scam include requests to take immediate action or to provide personal or financial information. In another version, you get a call saying a delivery is on its way. The doorbell rings, and the courier claims to not know who the sender is, demands a “verification fee” to leave the package, and pulls out a handheld credit card scanner to enable the fraudster to steal your information. Don’t provide your card or pay anything. If someone you know were trying to surprise you with a gift, that person would use an established delivery service.

For more holiday scam warnings, visit the BBB’s list of common holiday scams. Also check out its newly launched Scam Tracker, which provides consumers across North America with a place to report scams and fraud, and to warn others of malicious or suspicious activities. Users can search using different filters to see what scams are happening in their area, track a particular type, and report scams that they hear about.

Also check out the DCA website, where you can learn more about protecting yourself from fraud through resources like our Senior Scam Stopper Seminars and our award-winning Consumer Connection magazine.

 

 

Give Yourself a Stress-Free Season

shutterstock_109629779Like it or not, they’re here: the holidays. For many, ‘tis the season of shopping, spiritual celebration, socializing, obligations, travel, and seemingly endless preparations.

Remember that everyone deserves to enjoy the holidays, including you. But if you’ve overcommitted, overspent, overindulged, or overaccommodated, and you feel overwhelmed, the holidays could take an emotional or physical toll. Having a plan in place to prevent stress and depression at this time of year is key. The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips:

  • Be realistic. Families change and grow, and traditions and rituals may as well. Choose a few to keep, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find different ways to celebrate together such as sharing photos, e-mails, or videos. Consider planning visits for just before or just after the holidays to avoid the inconvenience of peak travel days.
  • Keep up healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before parties so you don’t go overboard on treats, appetizers, or drinks. Get plenty of sleep and incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  • Stick to a budget. Before shopping for gifts or food, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then don’t overspend.
  • Learn to say “no.” Saying yes when you should say no could leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If your boss asks you to work overtime and it’s not possible to decline, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. If you’re grieving the loss of someone or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize it’s normal to feel sadness. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

If the stress gets to be too much, employee assistance programs at work may provide access to confidential, no-cost counseling services and resources (check with your human resources department for access). The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Psychology and Board of Behavioral Sciences offer links to mental health resources as well. In addition, our Board of Pharmacy offers fact sheets and publications to help ensure your good times or travel plans are not affected by minor illnesses.

Visit www.dca.ca.gov for more information.

DCA: Who We Are and What We Do

A security guard, a landscaper, a manicurist, and a veterinarian may seem to have nothing in common, but they do. All of them are licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).

DCA is one of nine entities under the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

Licensing for protection

DCA issues more than 2.5 million licenses, certificates, and approvals to individuals and businesses in more than 240 professional categories. Through its boards, bureaus, committees, and other entities, DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them.

Licensing tells you that the person you are dealing with has met certain qualifications and levels of competency. Licensing also offers a remedy if a service is not delivered or work is not acceptable.

Most of DCA’s licensees work in healthcare fields and include physicians, surgeons, and registered nurses. DCA also licenses real estate brokers and salespersons, contractors, accountants, auto repair shops, therapists, for-profit schools, locksmiths, alarm companies, and more.

Consumer education and enforcement

Licensing is only part of the story. DCA promotes and protects the interests of California consumers in other ways as well.

Through award-winning consumer publications, social media, blogs, and community outreach events, DCA staff educates consumers by giving them the information they need to avoid unscrupulous or unqualified people who promote deceptive or unsafe services.

DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Its enforcement staff works with the Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. Many investigations are initiated as the result of complaints from consumers. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can place licensees on probation, or suspend or revoke licenses.

Dispute resolution

When a dispute arises between a customer and a business in certain industries under DCA’s jurisdiction, the Complaint Resolution Program who-we-are-coverprovides an alternative for resolving complaints without going to court. Through this process, the involved parties can work out a solution with the help of a mediator.

You can learn more on our website at www.dca.ca.gov or in our publication titled, Who We Are & What We Do. The book is organized by occupation, and lists the DCA licensing entities, which licenses they regulate, their contact information, web addresses and social media presences, if applicable. The book also includes an overall snapshot of DCA’s services, its history, quick consumer tips, and more. Access it online at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/dca_booklet.pdf, or, for a free printed copy, call the DCA Publications Hotline at (866) 320-8652 and leave your name, phone number, mailing address, and the name of the publication.

To verify a license, call the Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210, or visit the DCA website at www.dca.ca.gov and click on “Verify a license.” Consumers can file complaints against licensees by contacting DCA at (800) 952-5210 or online at www.dca.ca.gov.

 

Cutting Weight and Dehydration Summit: Hosted by the California State Athletic Commission

In the world of combat sports, the practice of cutting weight and dehydrating is not a new phenomenon.  There is a right and wrong way to cut weight.  With proper training, nutrition and patience, a competitor can reduce their body weight in a healthy manner without the potentially catastrophic results of excessive and rapid weight loss.
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The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), in its effort to champion the pursuit for solutions to reduce and ultimately eliminate the hazardous dehydration/re-hydration cycle, will host a Cutting Weight and Dehydration Summit on Thursday, December 17, in Los Angeles, CA.

The following regulators and representatives from across the nation are expected to attend: Association of Ringside Physicians, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Bellator MMA, Invicta Fighting Championships (IFC), World Series of Fighting (WSF), Resurrection Fighting Alliance and various members of the combative sports industry.

Though progress has been made, it is the hope of the Commission that with collective input during this summit, more will be accomplished to further ensure the safety of those competing.

For more information, visit the Commission’s website at www.dca.ca.gov/csac

View previous blog post on the dangers of cutting weight and dehydrating here

 

 

Don’t Miss the 10th Anniversary Issue of Consumer Connection

CC_Fall_15_FLWBR7B-1Our special issue celebrates 10 years of consumer news. In line with our previous years’ Consumer Connections, this issue features articles that help consumers stay informed about the latest trends and scams.

Read about acupuncture and the health benefits it can provide, plus information and news about LASIK surgery, consumer warnings about reverse mortgages, how to get your finances in order for the coming year, 3-D printing at home, and more. This fall issue also reports on the latest news regarding the prescription drug abuse epidemic and holiday shopping scams.

Visit the DCA website to download or read the magazine. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have it mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!