From 2015 to 2019, reported real estate losses are twice as much as losses from credit card fraud. House stealing scams can happen in a number of ways. Two women in Maryland once gained control of 6 houses and rented them out using forged deeds. An elderly couple once discovered their grandson had mortgaged their home for $360,000 and tried to sell it without their knowledge. Home title fraud is a form of identity theft, and it can happen to any homeowner.
How does home title fraud work?
First, forged deeds are created using easily accessible online property data from public records. Then, scammers file paperwork with the county claiming ownership of your home. They can do this to take out loans against the property, sell the property quickly, or inherit it after the current owner’s death. In most cases, the true homeowner is unaware of the scam until they receive news of foreclosure, find they cannot sell, refinance, or transfer ownership of their home, or discover someone unexpected living at their property. By the time this happens, it’s often too late to prove fraud or enlist law enforcement. The most vulnerable targets of this scam are the elderly and those with second homes, vacation properties, and investment real estate.
For homebuyers, title insurance can protect you against past title discrepancies when purchasing a home. This includes inconsistent wills, unknown heirs claiming ownership to an estate, title forgeries, and so on. Unfortunately, title insurance does not protect against new fraud attempts once you own your home. Prevention tactics include keeping personal information private, keeping close scrutiny of your bank and credit report, and tracking bills and statements with an eye for unexpected changes. For 24/7 protection, consider Home Title Lock, which protects titles the way home security protects homes.
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