Property title fraud is an emerging white-collar crime that victimizes homeowners, costing them thousands of dollars in legal fees and resulting in prolonged court battles. It is happening with increased frequency due to the widespread availability of personal information on the internet that allows fraud perpetrators to falsify property deed transfers. The thieves then apply for loans using the victims’ properties for collateral.
With property fraud on the rise, it’s important that homeowners take the proper steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of this often-undetected crime. There are many methods of property title protection, but most services in the public and private sectors depend on a property fraud alert sent to registered users whenever a transaction occurs involving the registered name. There are other ways you can protect yourself, but the primary means of defending your good name from property title theft is the knowledge that it has happened in the first place. Read on to learn more about property fraud, how it is perpetrated, its effects on victims, and how you can avoid it.
What is Property Fraud?
Property fraud is a crime that can go undetected for years, which is part of what makes it attractive to perpetrators. By the time the effects of the fraud are realized, the perpetrators have received fraudulent loans and left banks to attempt to collect on collateral property. Most local property recording officials don’t require identification to process property transfer deeds. In many areas, so long as transfer paperwork is properly completed, signed by the vested parties, and the transfer fees are paid, the deed transfer is recorded. This leaves the path open for property fraud, and unless the victim finds out that the property title has been tampered with, there is no outward indication to arouse suspicion.
How is Property Title Theft Done?
Property theft perpetrators have many methods for stealing property, but there are some common ways the thieves operate. Some look for properties that appear uninhabited, whether because mail has amassed in mailboxes or the property looks unkempt. Second homes and vacation properties are common targets for property theft, as there is often no one living at those properties full-time to notice changes in title status or mail delivery. In other cases, thieves carry out the crimes using data gleaned from online sources. With a name and address, the title transfer paperwork can be created and forged with the property owner’s signature. Once the transfer is filed with the local authorities, perpetrators of these crimes seek out loans using the stolen property as collateral and make off with the funds. When the loans are not paid back, the loaning institution attempts to foreclose on the property, only to find out that the title was fraudulently transferred, and the actual owner of the property took no loans.
Effects on Victims
Because property theft involves a fraudulent property transfer and the legal documents used are forged, the actual property owner never loses control of the property. However, victims of these crimes may become involved in prolonged legal battles with loan originators who were burned by the fraud as they attempt to recoup their loaned funds. This means that victims of this crime are required to fund legal representation and go through the frustration of potentially years of litigation to prove they aren’t responsible for the loans. Legal fees can run into the thousands even though the victims aren’t guilty of any wrongdoing.
Avoiding Property Theft
Avoiding property theft can be difficult since it’s hard to detect without some type of alert that the original title has been changed. The best step you can take to mitigate the impact of property title theft is to register for a title theft alert service. These services may be offered by your local property record authority, or they can be provided by a private service that locks your title and notifies you of changes. Also, make sure that you regularly check the information on your title to make sure it hasn’t changed. Be vigilant about reading mail. Any mail from services or companies you don’t patronize could be a sign that someone has attempted title theft with your address. Also, if utility bills or other regular mail ceases to arrive at your address, it could indicate that someone changed the mailing address to conceal property theft.
Property title theft is a crime on the rise, and the first step to defending against it is knowing it exists. Once you recognize the threat, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and mitigate its potential threats. To learn more about property title theft and how you can avoid it, visit Secure Title Lock at www.securetitlelock.com/.