What is Home Title Theft?
Purchasing a home is a big decision. For most people, it's the biggest purchase they will make in their lifetime. Plus, a home is so much more than an asset. It's where we live, raise our children, entertain friends, and feel the most secure and at peace. It's easy to understand why people would want to protect their homes at all costs. "Home Title Theft" or "Deed Fraud" has received a lot of attention lately and sounds as scary as it actually is. Let's take a look at what defines Home Title Theft and just how prevalent it really is. We will also discuss the difference between Home Title Theft and Loan Fraud, and how Truity Credit Union can protect you against the effects of both, no matter where the fraud occurs.
Home Title Theft is a Real Thing.
Home Title Theft occurs when a fraudster, armed with your personal information, uses forged documents to apply to the registrar of deeds of the county to have ownership of your property transferred to the fraudster's name. The fraudster then borrows money using the property as collateral, and never makes the payments. You may not know that this transaction has occurred until the lender tries to foreclose on the property and finds that you, the "previous owner", are still living there. This situation leads to many questions about what comes next. Do you have to make the payments on the loan to keep your home? Will you be able to sell your home? How can you undo the damage that has been done and get the title back in your name? What if the fraudster has sold the home to another person? How do you defend your rights to the ownership of your home? Before we go any further let us put your mind at ease.
Professional Identity Theft Recovery Advocates are Standing By
As a Truity Preferred or Advantage Checking account holder, your benefits include nxg|PROTECT with Fully Managed Identity Theft Recovery. If you find that you've become a victim of Home Title Theft a professional Identity Theft Recovery Advocate will personally assist you, including working on your behalf to reverse the damage, no matter how long it takes. It is also important to note that instead of just addressing the Home Title Theft your Identity Theft Recovery Advocate will research and address ALL fraud that has occurred in your name. Having professional help to resolve your entire identity theft situation, especially in the protection of your home, is critically important.
How Often Does Home Title Theft Occur?
The short answer is that no one knows for sure. The FBI doesn't break Home Title Theft out in their annual crime statistics. Neither does the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"). In the FTC's annual consumer fraud and identity theft report the much broader category encompassing All Real Estate Fraud shows that this category represents only 0.85% of the total of all identity theft incidents reported to the FTC in 2020. According to The American Land Title Association, the headlines about Home Title Fraud are usually exaggerated. "I suspect that companies that offer title services use that [claim] as a marketing strategy,” says Jeremy Yohe, vice president of communications at the association.
Home Title Theft vs Loan Fraud
A much more prevalent crime is "Loan Fraud", where the fraudster impersonates you using your personal information. They approach a financial institution and borrow money using your property as collateral. This fraudulent loan will satisfy the criminal's goal of fast cash without going through the process of changing the title.
Who are Typical Victims of Home Title Theft and Loan Fraud?
Criminals will target people who have no mortgage loan on their home; therefore, there is no second party to prevent the title transfer. The same is true for criminals who commit loan fraud. They want to find victims who have a large amount of equity in their home or they own their home free and clear of debt. Unfortunately, the largest proportion of these consumers are the elderly.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself Against Home Title Theft and Loan Fraud?
Many counties offer a free service on their property assessor's search page to alert you by email of any changes of title for the properties you own. If there is not an automated function for your county there is usually a way to search for the registered owner of a property to confirm no changes. Simply type the words "property assessor search" along with the name of your county and your state into your browser's search bar or go to your county's website.
In addition, nxg|PROTECT has several features that could alert you to suspicious activity, including credit monitoring and high-risk transactions monitoring. Watch for these alerts and take action or call an Identity Theft Recovery Advocate.