Home title theft is a growing threat that can risk your property and financial well-being. Protect yourself by reading this blog, which explains how home title theft works and provides practical advice to help you prevent it.
What Is Home Title Theft & How Does It Happen?
Home title theft is a type of fraud where someone steals the title or deed to your property, allowing them to sell or mortgage your home without your knowledge. There are various ways that this can happen, but it often involves someone with access to your personal information or property.
Title thieves use forged documents to change the title information on your property, including creating fake deeds that get recorded at the county clerk’s office. They may also request copies of your recorded documents from the county clerk’s office and use them to commit fraud.
For instance, they may sell or refinance your home and keep the proceeds for themselves or drain funds from your account by passing off their name as yours on mortgage payments or other bills.
They may also access your equity through a home equity line of credit (HELOC), leaving you with a pile of debt to pay off.
Home title theft is a serious issue that can cause significant financial and emotional harm.
How Common is Home Title Theft?
Home title theft is a growing problem in the United States, and it’s become increasingly common in recent years. While there are no exact figures on how many cases occur each year, it’s estimated that tens of thousands of homeowners are victims of this type of theft annually.
In fact, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), there were over 11,500 real estate and rental fraud victims in 2021, with losses totaling $350 million. This highlights the significant financial impact of home title theft on individuals and families.
It’s important to note that home title theft can happen to anyone, regardless of location or financial status. Therefore, protecting yourself and your property from this theft is crucial.
How To Prevent Home Title Theft
Home title theft is a serious issue that can cause severe financial damage. Here are some practical steps you can take to prevent home title theft and protect your property:
Monitor Your Credit Report
Make sure there aren’t inaccuracies on your credit report that can be caused by identity theft. To help monitor your identity and credit, consider signing up for IdentityIQ identity theft and credit protection plan. You receive real-time alerts for possible fraud and other suspicious activity.
Get Title Insurance
Make sure you have title insurance that protects you against any problems with the title of the property.
Monitor your bills
Review your bills and statements regularly to ensure all charges are legitimate. Then, contact your bank or credit card company immediately if you notice any suspicious activity.
Keep your important documents safe
Keep copies of all documents in a safe place, and ensure you have access to them whenever necessary. This includes the deed to your home and any other ownership-related paperwork.
Physically monitor extra properties
If you own multiple properties, physically monitor them regularly to ensure no one has taken residence without your knowledge.
How To Tell If You’re a Victim of Home Title Theft
If you suspect you may be a victim of home title theft, it’s essential to act quickly. Here are some signs that can indicate that your home title has been stolen:
You receive letters about a mortgage policy you never applied for:
If you receive letters or phone calls from a mortgage lender about a loan you never applied for, this could be a sign that someone has used your identity to take out a mortgage on your property.
Strange accounts appear on your credit report:
Check your credit report regularly for any unauthorized accounts or inquiries. If you notice unfamiliar accounts, this can be a sign of identity theft.
You stop receiving bills at your residence:
If you suddenly stop receiving bills and other mail at your home, this can indicate that someone has changed your address without your knowledge.
You get a notice of foreclosure on your property:
If you receive a notice of foreclosure, this can be a sign that someone has taken out a mortgage on your home and has stopped making payments.
Signs of Activity at an Unoccupied Home:
If you own an unoccupied second property, watch for signs of activity, such as changes to the property or people coming and going. This can indicate that someone has taken up residence without your knowledge.
What To Do If You’re a Victim of Home Title Theft
If you’ve fallen victim to home title theft, acting quickly and taking the necessary steps to protect your assets and identity is important. Here are some things you can do:
- File an official complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov to report the incident and receive assistance.
- Contact your mortgage lender and other financial institutions to inform them of the fraud and share your FTC report.
- Notify the county clerk where the fraud took place and follow up to ensure that any inaccuracies have been corrected.
- Freeze your credit and review your credit report for fraudulent accounts or loans.
- File an identity theft report with local law enforcement.
- Change your passwords and create a password manager to help create complex, unique, and secure passwords.
- Consider identity theft protection from IdentityIQ. IdentityIQ services can help protect your home title and other valuable assets.