It may seem unlikely that your home could be “stolen,” but in recent years, thieves have come up with a way to scam homeowners and take ownership of their property for financial gain. According to the FBI, home title fraud has claimed thousands of victims over the last decade who experienced an excess of $1 billion in losses.
How Title Fraud Works
Most people don’t realize just how much of their personal and financial information is available online, but criminals do. With little more than an address, scam artists can find out who owns a property, download the needed documents, purchase a fake notary stamp, and file the paperwork. Once the deal is done, they quickly take out loans using the true owner’s equity as collateral. The thieves don’t make payments on the loans, and they become delinquent. The homeowner is unaware of any issues because the thieves change the mailing address, so there are no late payment notices sent to the real owner’s address. Eventually, someone arrives at the door to inform the homeowner that their property is being foreclosed.
The Cost of Title Fraud
Homeowners can prove that they didn’t execute any title changes, although it may take years to do so. But proving title fraud can also be financially devastating to the homeowner, costing thousands of dollars in legal fees. And, even if law enforcement tracks down the scammers, it may take two years or more to prosecute them. Scammers often target the elderly, who usually have a great deal of equity built up in their homes. Those who own more than one property, such as a vacation home, are also targeted. Because of the increase in this type of property scam, homeowners are purchasing title fraud prevention policies to protect themselves and their property.
What Is Home Title Fraud Protection?
Some companies offer a monitoring service for a recurring monthly fee. These companies search through county and courthouse records to find any evidence of fraud, by keeping an eye out for any new documents or changes filed with your property’s address. They may also monitor your property for liens, contractor liens, homeowners’ association liens, and tax liens. Each month, they send you a report of what they’ve found. If the company identifies fraudulent activity, they have an in-house legal team that works to reverse and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Preventing Title Fraud
With the vast amount of information available online, it can be challenging to monitor and protect your financial information and your property constantly. Still, it’s necessary, especially if you’re a property owner. Take notice of any unpaid bill or mortgage alerts. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, especially utility bills, follow up with the post office and the company that you should have received a bill from. Monitor your credit reports or consider signing up with a credit monitoring service. Check out a home title fraud prevention service company that will monitor your property and take action if any changes are discovered.
Learn more about our home protection plan at our website, or call and speak with one of our helpful team members about home title fraud if you have any questions.