Years ago, title fraud looked much different than it does now. It typically involved fraudulent inheritance claims against the property or lien or land disputes. It was also much less common than it is now. The FBI reported that 11,677 people were the victims of real estate fraud and lost more than $221 million in 2019. Title fraud protection is possible, but education is key. By taking a closer look at what the crime entails and how it can be prevented, it reduces your risk of having your home stolen and prepares you in the event of a breach.
What Is Title Fraud?
Title fraud is a unique problem. It involves a variety of other crimes, including identity theft and forging signatures. Typically, cybercriminals obtain personal information of their victims long before they seize control of their home’s deed. Whether from a security breach or hacking, they use the information that they obtain to impersonate their victims. Then, using their “new” identity, they research information on title’s and deeds that their victims may have in their names. Because they have access to Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and all other personal information, they have everything they need to take out loans or sign over the deed and title to the home to someone new; and that is exactly what they do. Impersonating someone else, they sign the deed over to themselves, giving themselves access to the equity in the home. The cybercriminals then pocket the equity or go on a shopping spree, leaving their victim holding the bill. It’s intrusive, devastating, and can financially ruin a victim if the crime goes unchecked.
How Does It Happen?
Title fraud typically happens online. Because most transactions and document sharing happens over the web, it makes it really easy for criminals to steal the information needed. In many cases, cybercriminals target vacation homes and investment properties. Many homeowners don’t pay as close of attention to second properties, making it easier for criminals to take ownership of the house without being detected. In some cases, it takes years for homeowners to notice that someone has gained access and stolen the deed to their home.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone who owns a home is at risk for title fraud. However, there are factors that increase the risk of an issue arising. Because most title fraud occurs online, the elderly are especially susceptible to scams. Without the technological knowledge and ability to monitor their credit or perform title searches, they may not realize that they’ve been taken advantage of until it’s too late. Those with multiple homes or who have invested in a property as a group are also at an increased risk simply because they may not monitor their properties as closely as those who only own one property.
Preventing Home Title Fraud
As is true with many strategies, a good defense is the best offense. Instead of waiting for title fraud to occur and then acting, it’s best to prevent it from every happening in the first place. To do this, it’s important that you constantly monitor your online presence. Be cautious when sharing personal information over the web. When paying for goods or services, ensure that you’re using a secure portal and a trusted source. Never send your Social Security number or banking information through email or messages.
It’s also important to monitor your credit report. If cybercriminals have access to the deed of your home, you’ll know it. They’ll use the equity from your home to open up a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. This type of line of credit will be reported on your credit report. The more frequently you monitor your credit report, the easier it will be to catch irregular activity.
Before you purchase a home, it’s a good idea to look into the title history that accompanies your prospective property. Running a home title search will give you a closer look at any activity that’s occurred. If there are any liens, inheritance claims, or lines of credit opened on the house, you’ll know about it. It’s an easy way to ensure that you’re protected before buying a home.
There’s a lot to do to ensure that your home is protected from mortgage fraud. Monitoring your online presence, checking your credit score, and checking the title history of your house aren’t one-time things. They should be done regularly. Instead of spending hours each day ensuring that the title to your home is safe, hire professionals to do it for you. With a team of online experts working for you, you can rest easy knowing that the deed to your home is constantly being monitored.
Even the most cautious of people could find themselves the victims of mortgage fraud. No matter the circumstances, it’s important to act quickly when this happens. Whether due to alerts from your monitoring company or because you notice something suspicious on your credit report, don’t wait to report the issue. The sooner that you jump into action, the easier it is to halt mortgage fraud from continuing. If you can stop the cybercriminals in the process, they’re less likely to get away with the crime.
Everyone should have a property fraud alert set up on their home. Whether you own multiple properties or just one, allow the experts at Secure Title Lock to protect you and your loved ones. We’re dedicated to giving you the peace of mind you deserve. We understand that you can’t continuously monitor your online identity, so we do it for you! By running regular checks and reports, we catch malicious activity before it derails your future. Your home is your home, and we are here to make sure that happens. To learn more about your monitoring options, visit www.securetitlelock.com today.