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How to Protect Against Home Title Fraud



home title fraud

For most Americans, their primary residence is their most valuable asset. 34% of US homeowners have 100% equity in their property, putting them in an enviable position. Unfortunately, not everyone has taken the precautions they need to to keep their prized asset from being stolen. It’s not about locking doors or setting alarms; scammers can steal the home one lives in without ever breaking in. Instead of targeting physical property, more and more thieves are after a home’s title, which signifies who owns the residence. From 2015 to 2019, real estate and rental fraud grew 2.6 times as fast as credit card fraud and boasted twice the reported losses. House stealing scams can happen on a wide scale to any property owner. In Manhattan, 30 properties were targeted by a group of 4 people who forged deeds to sell what they did not own. In Maryland, 2 women gained control of 6 houses and rented them out using forged deeds. This problem is growing across the nation.

How do home title fraud scams occur? First, a thief creates forged property deeds using online property data and public records, both of which are easy to find. Then, the scammer uses their forged deeds to file paperwork with the county containing the residence to claim ownership of a home. False deeds can lead to profit by allowing scammers to take out loans against the property, sell the property using a quitclaim deed, or inherit the property after the true owner’s death. This sort of fraud can be hard to detect at first, and many honest homeowners don’t grow wise to the scam until they receive a warning of foreclosure or discover a stranger living at their property. Once that happens, proving fraud ranges from difficult to impossible. Law enforcement may not be able to intervene. Most vulnerable to these scams are elderly homeowners and those who own more property than just a primary residence (think vacation homes or investment properties).

What can homeowners do to protect themselves? First of all, title insurance protects home buyers at the point of a home’s sale. It clears away bumps in the road that could put their home ownership in question. While title insurance is good at fighting past title discrepancies, it does not protect homeowners from future attempts at fraud. Instead, homeowners must be vigilant. They need to do their part to keep personal information private online and watch their bank statements, credit cards, and bills for any sign of suspicious activity. One service that protects a home’s title for the owner is Home Title Lock. Home Title Lock offers 24/7 protection to a home’s online title and mortgage. It alerts homeowners of tampering right away and mobilizes resources to shut down illicit activity when it happens, not after. After all, if homeowners don’t protect their title, where will they go once it’s gone?

Most homeowners know not to let strangers into their home. Title is no different. Keep a home’s title locked. Check out more about home title fraud in the visual deep dive below:

Latest cyberthreat is stealing your home equity

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.