Clerk/ROD Lisa Brown aims to crack down on fraud, simplify search process for consumers.
May 8, 2014, Pontiac, MI - Oakland County today becomes the largest county in the nation to launch a Super Index to help simplify property records searches for residents, professionals and law enforcement looking to crack down on real estate fraud.
"The Super Index uses innovative technology to create a search engine that is easy to navigate and easily accessible for the average person," said Lisa Brown, Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds. "The old system was not user-friendly. It was developed for professionals and required information that is not familiar to the average person. The Super Index makes it easy for any homeowner to search for the documents they need in a fraction of the time it used to take."
The Super Index, powered by Google and Xerox, is a massive database that contains nearly 12 million documents filed with Oakland County dating back to 1964. It uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to make documents filed with the Register of Deeds Office searchable by any piece of information contained in it. A homeowner can use his or her name, address, a notary's name - any information contained in the document to search for it. Brown's office worked with experts at Google and Xerox to make the Super Index a reality for Oakland County. Oakland County is just the second county in the United States to launch a Super Index.
Brown said: "The Super Index makes it as easy as 'Googling' your address to find the documents you need. Nearly everyone knows how to 'Google' these days. We're very happy to have worked with Google and Xerox to create this Super Index for Oakland County."
Brown wanted to create a Super Index for Oakland County to help crack down on real estate fraud. In some cases, fraudsters were abusing the system and literally stealing homes. The perpetrator would find a home with delinquent taxes, pay a portion of the back taxes, place a lien on the property and, in most cases, file a fraudulent deed on the property. At that point a vacant home could be turned into a rental property or sold out from under the rightful owner, putting money into the pocket of a criminal. In other cases where the homes were still occupied by the rightful owners, the fraudster would solicit large sums of cash from the owners in exchange for releasing the lien.
"It can be hard to catch this kind of criminal at the counter in the Register of Deeds Office, but we can find them with the Super Index," Brown said. "If we find a common thread - like a fraudulent notary's signature - every document containing that particular name can be searched for in seconds using the Super Index. The rightful homeowners can be alerted that there is dubious activity happening with their property, and steps can be taken to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice."
In the next phase of the project, homeowners will be able to set up an alert that will let them know immediately via email if any activity is happening with their property.
"Increasing transparency and empowering Oakland residents with the tools they need to protect their assets is important to me," Brown said. "In this day and age, it is all too easy to get taken by unscrupulous criminals who don't think twice about ruining people's lives. The Super Index is one more tool property owners can use to protect themselves."