Home title theft, also known as deed theft, is a growing concern that homeowners need to be aware of. It involves fraudulently transferring the ownership of a property to another person by forging the deed. This type of scam can have devastating financial and emotional consequences for the victims. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what home title theft is, how it happens, and most importantly, how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.
1. Understanding Home Title Theft
What is Home Title Theft?
Home title theft, also known as deed theft, occurs when a fraudster illegally transfers the ownership of a property to themselves or another party without the knowledge or consent of the true homeowner. The thief accomplishes this by forging the property deed, making it appear as if they are the legitimate owner.
How Does Home Title Theft Happen?
Home title theft can happen in several ways, but the most common method involves stealing personal information, such as your social security number and address, to create false documents. The fraudster then files these documents with the county recorder’s office, effectively transferring the property’s title to themselves.
Who is at Risk of Home Title Theft?
Anyone who owns a property is potentially at risk of home title theft. However, certain factors may make individuals more vulnerable, such as:
- Absentee homeowners who do not reside in the property they own
- Properties with no mortgage or liens
- Elderly homeowners who may be less vigilant about their property records
- Homeowners who are not actively monitoring their property records
2. Signs of Home Title Theft & Fraud
Unexpected Eviction Notices or Foreclosure Proceedings
One of the most alarming signs of home title theft is receiving unexpected eviction notices or foreclosure proceedings for a property you own. If you have been making regular mortgage payments and suddenly receive notices indicating default or foreclosure, it could be an indication that someone has fraudulently taken over your property.
Unfamiliar Names on Property Documents
Regularly reviewing your property documents, such as deeds and title reports, is essential to detect any suspicious activity. If you come across unfamiliar names listed as owners or individuals with rights to your property, it may indicate that someone has fraudulently tampered with your property records.
Inaccurate or Missing Mortgage Statements
Another sign of home title theft is receiving inaccurate or missing mortgage statements. If you have been consistently receiving mortgage statements and suddenly stop receiving them or notice discrepancies in the amounts owed or payments made, it’s crucial to investigate further to rule out any fraudulent activity.
3. Steps to Protect Your Property from Theft and Fraud
Regularly Monitor Your Property Records
One of the most effective ways to protect your property from title theft is to regularly review your property records. Stay vigilant and ensure that all information, including ownership and liens, is accurate. If you notice any discrepancies or suspicious activity, report them immediately to the appropriate authorities.
Secure Your Personal Information
Protecting your personal information is crucial in preventing home title theft. Be cautious about sharing sensitive information online or with individuals you do not trust. Shred any documents containing personal information before discarding them, and consider using a secure password manager to safeguard your online accounts.
Be Cautious of Scammers and Phishing Attempts
Fraudsters often use phishing attempts to gather personal information. Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or text messages asking for personal information or claiming to be from legitimate organizations. Remember that reputable institutions will never ask for sensitive information through these channels.
Consider Title Insurance to Prevent Fraud
Title insurance can provide an additional layer of protection against home title theft. It covers any losses or damages resulting from title defects or fraudulent claims. Consult with a reputable title insurance company to understand the coverage options available and determine if it is the right choice for you.
Consult with Legal Professionals
If you suspect or have fallen victim to home title theft, seek legal advice from professionals specializing in real estate law. They can guide you through the process of reclaiming your property and help you understand your rights and options.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to protect your property legally or to hire me visit https://www.hishawlaw.com/blog
Jillian Hishaw, Esq., is a MacArthur Awardee, Agricultural Lawyer, Founder, and Director of F.A.R.M.S., an international non-profit and Hishaw Law L.L.C., a virtual law practice. Inspired by her own family’s land loss, F.A.R.M.S., provides technical and legal assistance to small farmers, while reducing hunger in the farmer’s community.
Hishaw’s first book, “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid,” examines how U.S. long-term care facilities can exercise their federal authority to place a lien on a resident’s property, if an outstanding debt, is owed.
Hishaw, has over 20 years of professional experience in the areas of civil rights, land protection, and agricultural policy. Her prior experience includes working at local, state and federal agencies on conservation and civil rights matters.
In 2017, Hishaw was recognized as a Food Changemaker, by the Clif Bar Foundation and featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Atlantic, Vice News, Growers Co., (CAN), and among others. In 2019, the Food Tank organization voted Hishaw, 1 of 15 women in the World Impacting the Food Industry.
Hishaw, has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Tuskegee University, plus a Juris Doctorate and Legal Master’s in agricultural law, from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville law school.
Hishaw is the author of “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid,” “US Farm Tax Credits for all 50 States,” “The History of 50 U.S. State Flags & their Historic Symbolism,” and “Systematic Land Theft” winner of the 2022 Independent Press Award, the 2022 National Indie Excellence Book Award, 2022 NYC Big Book Award and Finalist for the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.