Losing your home to title theft is real. Technology and the Internet have made our personal information more available than ever to criminals. Identity theft is extremely prevalent, but thieves are turning to title theft and stealing people’s property — a much more profitable crime.
You may be asking yourself what home-title theft is, how it can affect you, and what you can do to prevent it. The title experts at True Concept Title are ready to explain how you can protect yourself – and property – against this crime.
What Is Home-Title Theft?
Home-title theft, or deed theft, occurs when ownership of a property is fraudulently transferred to another person without the owner’s knowledge or consent.
But how could this be done? The thief would first forge the real homeowner’s signature on the title to make it look like the property was sold to them. The document then would be signed as the new homeowner or grantee. The forged title is filed with the county recorder to make it appear official.
Once it is filed, the real homeowner no longer has legal ownership of the property — until they find out and then must fix the title fraud and theft.
Home-title theft can happen when:
- The mortgage is refinanced — the thief cashes out the home equity and walks away with the difference. The thief will not pay the new mortgage, meaning the real homeowner can face foreclosure.
- A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is opened in the real homeowner’s name — the thief cashes out the home equity and will not pay the new mortgage, again leaving the real homeowner to face foreclosure.
- An empty home, such as an unoccupied rental property or vacation home, is targeted — the title is forged, the home is sold, and the real homeowner does not know.
- Vulnerable homeowners such as seniors are conned into “refinancing” their home — the property is refinanced or sold, transferring ownership to the thief.
Keys To Protecting Yourself
One of the most important ways to protect yourself from home-title theft is to be vigilant. After all, thieves want to avoid being caught so they look for an easy target. The experts at True Concept Title want to raise awareness of home-title theft by recommending the following tips.
Watch for missing bills or bills addressed to someone who does not live at your address.
Although it could just be an error, missing bills should be investigated. If your important home-related bills, such as your mortgage, utility bills, tax bill, etc., are missing, the home title thief has likely changed the address.
On the other hand, if you are receiving home-related bills but in someone else’s name, this is a red flag.
Watch and monitor your credit report.
It is important to frequently monitor your credit report. If you notice that your credit score has dropped, you should investigate it immediately. It may be the result of unpaid bills from the change of address/title theft. Also, it could indicate that the thief has sold more of your personal information and you may also be a victim of identity theft.
Make sure you have title insurance.
While title insurance will not prevent the theft from happening, it will protect you afterward.
How Title Insurance Protects You
Title insurance is extremely important. It is a one-time fee that protects against any claims or liens that are made against the property.
There are two types of title insurance — lender’s title insurance and owner’s title insurance. When you purchase a home, the mortgage company requires lender’s title insurance to assure them that the home title is clear at the time of the sale. The owner’s title insurance protects the property after the purchase of the home.
If you are a victim of home-title theft, you will need a lawyer to go to court to prove that fraud occurred. This is time-consuming and can be costly. Thankfully, title insurance will pay the legal fees. Therefore, it is crucial to purchase title insurance before closing on your home.
Shield Your Home With True Concept Title
Do not allow yourself to become a victim of home-title theft!
The best way to protect yourself from home-title theft is to purchase title insurance when you buy your home. If you are purchasing a property or need help getting title insurance, True Concept Title can assist you. Our team offers complete title and escrow services nationwide. Call us today at (813) 263-7168 to see how our team can protect your home today!