Benchmark Title Company, LLC


As promised in a previous title tip, this week's Title Tip of the Week discusses the "Red Flags of Forgery", so that you don't fall into one of these simple traps.      

Red Flags of Forgery
by John Howe, President

The following is a list of the "Red Flags of Forgery" in real estate transactions.  It's not a complete list of all the ways a person could commit a forgery or a fraud in a transaction, but hopefully these examples will make everyone more aware of the signs to watch for so you or your clients don't get burned.

A release of lien is brought to the closing table -- It is always wise to check with the lien holder to verify that the lien in fact has been paid and that the release is valid.

There is a quit claim deed in the chain of title with no related transaction -- It is wise to try to find out the reason for the transfer by quit claim deed before you proceed.  Is someone trying to fradulently take title to the property and sell it out from under the real owner?

There is a release of mortgage in the chain of title without a related transaction -- Same as above, but someone is trying to commit a fraud on the prior lender?  Of course sometimes people really do just payoff their mortgages, but more commonly a mortgage is released when the borrower refinances, or sells their home to purchase another.

Handwritten deeds that don't seem to make sense -- Most deeds these days are not handwritten, either they are prepared by an attorney or the parties may get a standard form deed and fill in the blanks.  Look carefully at the deed to see who prepared it, the preparers name must be on the document for it to be recorded.

Written or oral direction to the title company to disburse the sellers funds to someone other than the parties to the transaction -- This should open the door to a lot of questions.  Pay close attention to the answers and body language.

Capacity of seller or borrower may be questionable -- Do all of the parties appear to be of sound mind, do they fully understand what is transpiring?

Carefully check identification, make a legible copy, enlarging it may help -- Are the people who they say they are?  Look at this carefully.  Make sure "New Girlfriend" isn't trying to pass as "Wife" to help her boyfriend get rid of the property.

Variations in signature --  Compare current ones versus signatures on prior documents in the chain of title.  Does the seller's signature match their signature on the mortgage they took out when they bought the property?  If a Power of Attorney is presented for the seller, does that signature match the prior mortgage? 

A recent series of transfers between family members --  This is a touchy issue, but must be investigated.  Who is possibly being defrauded out of their interest in the property?

Be alert to the above and trust your experience and instincts.  Listen carefully and totally to the answers to your questions, and watch eyes and body language.  

Any questions can be directed to Benchmark Title at 618-239-3750. Please feel free to call or email: 

John Howe

Doreen Miller, Esq.
Commercial Division Manager

Sarah Holdener, Esq.
General Counsel,
VP Production

Michelle Null
VP Escrow Operations

Serving you from three convenient locations:

Main Office:
1124 Hartman Lane
Shiloh, IL 62221
Ph: 618-239-3750
Escrow Fax: 618-239-3707
Title Fax: 618-239-3757
Fax Orders: 618-310-1589
President: John Howe

318 North Main St.
Columbia, IL 62236
Ph: 618-281-9700
Fax: 618-281-9705
Manager: Randi Schur

4215 S. State Rte 159
Glen Carbon, IL 62034
Ph: 618-288-1695
Fax: 618-288-1852
Manager: Sara Sowell

Upcoming Title Tips

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The Birth of Title Insurance
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   Employee Spotlight

 Lisa Masterson

 Lisa Masterson started out in title insurance 20 years ago as a proofreader.  She worked her way up through the ranks as a proofreader, typist, and title examiner, and across the country, having worked in title insurance in California before returning to the Metro East.  Lisa joined Benchmark in 2002 and today is a member of Benchmark Title Company's Commercial Division where she examines the chains of title and prepares commitments on commercial properties.  Lisa lives in Belleville, has 5 children, Sonya, 24, Carena, 22, Michael 19, Kelsi, 8, and McKensi, 3, and a grandbaby, Aubry, 1.  Lisa can be reached at 618-239-3750 or by email at




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