When the title of a property is fraudulently transferred without the legal homeowner’s consent, it is called home title theft. A fraudster can fake ownership by stealing personal information of the legal homeowner, forge documents, and then transfer the home title to their name. If you are a homeowner, you must learn about title theft, how it is carried, and how you can protect your property. We have curated some frequently asked questions on home title theft and their answers that you will find useful:
Question 1: What happens if a home title is stolen?
Once the home title is transferred to the scammers’ name, they can do whatever they want with the property. They might borrow money against the property and default on payments. They might even refinance the home, convert the equity to cash, and then flee with the money. They can even sell it to a third party who may not be aware of the fraud.
Question 2: Who is likely to be targeted by home title fraud?
Anyone can be a target for home title thieves, but they frequently pick on unoccupied houses, second homes, and rental properties where the homeowner is not able to monitor the property on a regular basis. Also, the fraudsters target seniors who have a large amount of equity in their home or they own their home free and clear of mortgage. Moreover, seniors are more vulnerable to identity theft committed by cyber criminals as they often are not as tech-savvy as the young homeowners.
Question 3: What are the signs of home title fraud?
Many homeowners do not even know that the title to their home has been stolen until they receive a foreclosure notice from the lending company. As a homeowner, the earlier you detect home title fraud, the easier and quicker it will be to get legal assistance and recover. To detect home title fraud, it is important that you remain careful of these common warning signs:
- You start receiving mortgage information from a new lender.
- You find out that loans have been obtained in your name.
- Regular bills stop showing up in your mailbox.
- Your utility costs at a vacant house or holiday rental unexpectedly increase or fluctuate.
- Rent is not paid by tenants
Question 4: How to prevent home title theft?
Here are some proactive steps to guard your property against home title theft:
- Check your home title:
Property ownership records are kept by the county registrar’s office. Some counties have digitized the records and provide a notification service. It notifies you when information on your property is changed. However, many counties still do not have digital records – which means you will have to visit the registrar’s office to keep a tab on the title of your property.
- Subscribe title insurance monitoring service:
For extra peace of mind, subscribe to a title monitoring service that monitors changes to the public documents related to your home. They monitor your title records for any changes to ownership, foreclosure activity, and property tax delinquencies. They notify you in case there are any changes.
- Up your online security:
Home title theft starts with identity theft. Cybercrimes are one of the common ways through which identity thieves target home owners. To prevent scammers from targeting you, follow internet rules such as – use secure passwords, do not share password-related information on social media, and avoid doing financial transactions using public Wi-Fi.
Note: Here is a useful read on how you can reduce your risk of identity theft.
- Monitor your credit reports:
Keeping an eye on your credit report will help you detect identity theft, not just home title theft. If there is any discrepancy in financial records, follow up with your bank and your creditors immediately.
- Do not ignore missing bills:
When bills go missing, you could either be dealing with an error or it could be a sign of identity theft.
If you think your property title is stolen, contact a home title theft attorney. David L. Fleck is a home title theft attorney who has decades of experience helping victims of fraud. To get in touch with him, send a message here.