With land/property prices rising in the US, a house has become one of the most expensive assets to possess. However, increasing home title theft and real estate forgery cases in the US have left homeowners, especially elderly homeowners, in a difficult situation. If you are a homeowner and looking for ways to protect your home title, you are bound to have many questions. Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions on real estate forgery and protecting home title:
Question 1: Can property documents be forged?
Yes, property documents or home titles can be forged without the homeowner’s consent by way of identity theft. There are several ways scammers commit identity theft. Some of them are:
- Stealing discarded credit card receipts, bank account statements, utility bills, canceled checks, old driver’s license, deposit slips, or correspondence that contains sensitive information such as bank details and Social Security Number (SSN).
- Scamsters may also send fake links, which claim to be from a legitimate source, to homeowners to solicit bank details and other sensitive information from them.
- Cybercriminals can hack a homeowner’s account and use personal and financial information to forge property documents.
Question 2: Is home title theft really a problem?
Yes, home title theft is a common problem affecting homeowners across the country.
Question 3: Can someone misuse property documents?
Yes, once scammers have access to property documents, they can commit various kinds of crimes. They can
- Refinance the mortgage. As they won’t pay the new mortgage, homeowners have to face foreclosure.
- Open a home equity line of credit in the homeowner’s name, take out the equity and not make the payment.
- Use forged documents to even sell the home.
Question 4: How do I check the status of the property title?
Homeowners can go to the local county office to check the status of the property title. Counties where records are digitized, homeowners can sign up for a free county consumer text notification service. However, in many counties, records are yet to be digitized.
Question 5: Doesn’t my title insurance protect me from home title theft?
It was in the year 2000, when the title insurance companies began to add this coverage to their policies. If homeowners bought title policy before 2000, they may not be covered. If the title policy was bought after 2000, they might be covered. In any case, the policy does not do anything to prevent a home title thief from targeting the home.
Question 6: What to do if my property title is stolen?
Homeowners can follow the below instructions, if they find that their property title is stolen:
- Inform the credit card company, utility provider, and bank
- Place a fraud alert with the creditors
- Inform the police and file a report
- Inform the home insurance company
- Contact a real estate forgery lawyer
Question 7: How to prevent home title theft?
Here are some useful insights on preventing home title theft:
- Protect identity: To prevent identity theft, homeowners must guard their personal information. They should not throw away mails or documents that contain private financial information. It is best to shred documents before throwing them away.
- Review credit cards: Homeowners must regularly review their card statements and ensure that they recognize the merchants, locations, and purchases before paying the bill.
- Monitor the credit report: Homeowners must keep a tab on the credit score. If there’re any unexplained changes in the score, it can be an early sign of fraud.