Purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime.
After searching and finding your dream house, you went through the legal channels of purchasing it and taking over the rights to it. The deed reflecting all of this is recorded with the title to your property reflecting you as the rightful owner.
In an ideal world, none of this should change unless you sell or transfer the property. Unfortunately, your home ownership can easily catch the eye of thieves— and they want what you have.
Home title theft happens more often than you’d think. Let’s look at what it is, what to look out for, and how to prevent it from happening to you.
What is Home Title Theft?
Home title theft happens when someone fraudulently uses a homeowner’s personal information to forge a deed and transfer their home into their own name. From there, they can try to sell it, take out a line of credit, or try to rent it out to an unsuspecting tenant.
The scammer makes money without you ever knowing.
Real estate scams are on the rise. And while home title theft isn’t the most common, it happens enough that homeowners need to be aware of it.
Because thieves are looking to make a buck, they often choose homes that have been owned for years – giving them access to the most equity. So, don’t think you are out of the woods if you have been a homeowner for decades. In fact, this could make you an even greater target. Vacant properties and those with a satisfied mortgage are also vulnerable.
What happens if the thieves succeed at stealing the title of your home? You may lose your property. Often, these scams leave homeowners with a heap of financial debt they don’t know about. And mortgages, home equity lines, etc., all allow the lender to foreclose on the property to get their money back.
How Does Home Title Theft Happen?
There are many ways that home title theft can happen. However, there are a few common methods that thieves use.
Sending phishing emails or letters
Scammers are getting better and better at making their fake emails and letters look legitimate. This requires homeowners to be even more diligent when they receive something that seems out of the ordinary. Phishing is a way for scammers to obtain personal information by looking like they are the proper lender, bank, or government agency.
Invasive computer software, such as malware
Adding malware to your computer using a virus allows thieves access to your personal information. Unless your device is protected, you won’t even know they are there.
Hackers can break into different company servers and gain access to your personal information.
Using an unsecured internet connection
Anytime you use an unsecured network for personal use, scammers can be in the background watching your every move and stealing your private information.
The best thing you can do is learn how to prevent home title theft.
How Can You Prevent Home Title Theft?
Knowing how it all happens is one thing, but knowing how to prevent home title theft is another. Protect yourself by taking these steps:
Invest in Title Insurance
When you buy your property, a title search will be performed to ensure it is free and clear. You will then be offered title insurance – one for you and one for your lender. In most places, owner’s title insurance is optional. Yet, for the sake of protecting your title rights, it is worth the investment.
One premium payment at closing can protect you from title issues for as long as you have an interest in your property. If any fraudulent claims or old liens arise, for example, then your title insurance will cover the legal fees and defense, if necessary.
Stay On Top of Your Financials
Always stay on top of your mail, your bills, and other financials. Knowing what you have and what you don’t, as well as where you stand with all your bills will allow you to more easily see when something changes.
As soon as you notice something seems off, it is important to act.
The more you know about real estate scams and how they work, the greater you will be protected. It is critical to educate yourself on how and what is happening so that you can always be prepared should it happen to you.
Knowledge is one of the most effective tools in preventing home title theft.
Signs of Home Title Theft
Now that you know about home title theft and what you can do to prevent it, you should familiarize yourself with the signs. Keeping an eye out for these things will enable you to act before things get worse.
Changes to your credit report
It is always a good idea to monitor your credit report. This will give you a glimpse of things that are going on — and an opportunity to catch those things that don’t belong, such as new mortgages or lenders.
Pay attention to your mail
Are you receiving information regarding financial matters you didn’t initiate? Are you missing mail you should have received?
Random calls or emails from your lender
Scammers may call you and pretend to be your lender to try and obtain your private details. Use caution if you receive calls and emails asking you for this personal information.
Keep in mind that home title theft often begins with identity theft. So, if you have any inclination that your identity may be in jeopardy, take steps to safeguard yourself and your home.
Guidance From Option Funding, Inc.
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