For many people, the family home is their most prized possession, and homeowners go to great lengths to protect that property. The growing sophistication of security systems provides a level of sanctuary that their belongings and well-being are safe and secure.
However, what happens when their home is taken from them without their knowledge?
Listen to any radio station, and you’ll hear commercials for home title theft. While even the remote possibility is hard to believe, residences can slip through the fingers of their owners.
Home title theft can happen to you
From Los Angeles to New York City and other cities identified by the FBI, home title – or deed – theft is a stark reality and it’s big business for criminal enterprises. This increasingly common form of cybercrime sees thieves forging documents and stealing properties. The FBI reported 9,600 real estate and rental fraud victims who lost more than $56 million worth of property in 2017 alone.
The sinister steps include various scenarios:
- Forging a deed that shows the home title thief as the property owner
- The fraudster finances a mortgage
- Equity is cashed out with the difference going to the criminal
- A home equity line of credit is opened in the actual owner’s name
- Mortgage payments are not made, forcing the actual owner into foreclosure
- Empty homes used for vacation residences or rental properties can have their deeds forged to sell the house without the owner’s knowledge
- Homeowners facing financial issues are offered “refinancing,” with the deal deceptively and deliberately classified as a home sale instead
Upon discovery of the left, specific strategies include:
- Contacting companies where the fraud occurred
- Notifying creditors to issue a fraud alert and pulling credit reports
- Contacting the FTC to report identity theft
- Reaching out to the local police department to file a report
While justice may eventually be served, even unsuccessful title or deed thefts can still create real problems for homeowners. For months, if not years, consumers could face uncertainty about their status as homeowners. Home title theft is a serious crime that requires proactive steps to protect the roof over your head.