BROOKLYN –Imagine someone else claiming they own your home after you've lived there for almost 30 years. That's exactly what one Brooklyn family says happened to them after a scam artist got the deed to their property.
"They want to put us out so they can take the house," said Brenda Pearson.
Pearson says she and her family have lived at 216 Hancock for almost 30 years.
But for the past 12 months men have been knocking down her door claiming they own the house.
Sometimes, she says, the men have even impersonated law enforcement.
"Marshals have come here several times to put us out and the paperwork wasn't legal," Pearson said.
Public records show the house was sold in 2014 by Calvin Traylor, Pearson's common law husband.
The only problem is, the family says Traylor passed away three years earlier.
When Pearson fought back, she says a man named Gregory tried to pay her to go away.
"He told me that he'll give me $50,000 to leave the house or give him the information, asking me all these questions, and I told him no, I can't sell the house," said Pearson.
If the claims are true, Pearson isn't alone. Hundreds of families have filed complaints with the Department of Finance after their homes were allegedly stolen right out from under them. But there are ways you can fight back against the scam artists.
"Well I think the first thing everyone should do, regardless of your financial status is go online to the Department of Finance and register your home so that when anyone attempts to get information on your deed, they will send you an alert," said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland who chairs the Committee on Finance.
Ferreras-Copeland says the Department of Finance currently has more than 500 open investigations involving almost 700 properties across the five boroughs. The majority in Brooklyn and Queens.
"It is just incredibly easy, which is what we found out in the hearing," said Ferreras-Copeland. "Someone just has to go basically register a deed at the City Registers and they can potentially own your home."
We tried to contact two men Pearson believed to be with 216 Hancock Corp – the company she says stole her home.
One, a man named Greg, never returned our phone calls. The other, a man named Henry, said he had no part of the scam, but blamed his former partner.
"He brought me to the scheme, to scheme to take the house from those people," said Henry.
Ferreras-Copeland says seniors and those about to go into foreclosure are the most vulnerable to deed scams.
If you think you've been a victim, she says to contact the Department of Finance and the Attorney General right away.
"Unfortunately these scammers are getting wiser, they're getting smarter and they're out there and we really need to protect people, because our homes often times are everyone's biggest investment."
As for Pearson, she says she's not going anywhere without a fight.
"I'm not gonna let them just kick me out of here. I've been here 30 years. That's crazy."