Locking the doors and installing an alarm system won’t protect your home from title theft; scammers can take ownership of your home without breaking in. From 2015 to 2019, real estate and rental fraud grew at 2.6x the rate of credit card fraud; reported real estate losses are now 2 times as much as credit card fraud. In 2019, Americans lost $160 million to identity theft — if you can’t protect your identity, your house is at risk.
How does this process work? Forged deeds are created using easily accessible online property data from public records. This includes the homeowner’s identity and home equity, primary addresses and contact information, and examples of the owner’s signature. Scammers then file paperwork with the county claiming ownership of your home. False deeds are used to profit by taking out loans against the property, selling the property with a quitclaim deed, and inheriting the property after the owner’s death.
By the time the scam is discovered it’s too late. A homeowner is unaware of the scheme until they either receive a letter from the lender indicating foreclosure, find they are unable to sell, refinance, or transfer ownership, or discover someone else is living at their property. At this point, proving fraud may be difficult or impossible, law enforcement may not be able to intervene, and going to court is expensive and takes time.
Are you a target for home title fraud? Easy targets include older homeowners because they often have higher home equity, are less adept at preventing online identity theft, and may be less aware of the signs of fraud. Individuals who own second homes, vacation homes, and investment properties are also vulnerable to home title fraud. They give less attention to additional properties than their main residence and may miss foreclosure notices or bills mailed to a secondary address; these factors combined give scammers more time to get away.
Signs of home title fraud include receiving financial documents from an unfamiliar lender, finding out you’ve defaulted on a loan you never requested, receiving unexpected notice of foreclosure proceedings, or discovering tenants are paying rent to someone else. Discovering fraud quickly is key to stopping scammers. For homebuyers, title insurance can protect them from hidden bumps in the road that could put their ownership in question at the point of sale. Title insurance protects against past title discrepancies when purchasing a home. Homeowners need to lock their title because title insurance doesn’t protect against new fraud attempts once you own your home. If you don’t lock your title with a service like Home Title Lock, then you will have to manually do all of these tasks yourself, which could leave you vulnerable to attacks.
Keeping personal information private is important. Be wary of unsolicited requests for information like your social security number and other personal information, and shred all documents containing your bank account information. Reviewing your bank account information and credit report regularly looking for indications of identity thieves also helps protect your home. Track your bills and statements and watch for unexpected changes in property taxes, utility bills, and mortgage statements.
A DIY approach may still leave your home title vulnerable to fraud. Home Title Lock provides protection by posting a virtual perimeter around a home’s online title and mortgage, alerting homeowners of any evidence of tampering with a title or mortgage, mobilizing resources to shut down illicit activity, and assisting homeowners if the title or mortgage is compromised. Don't let strangers in — keep your home title locked.