Full disclosure: I don’t work for Home Title Lock, and I am not a paid spokesperson for the company like Newt Gingrich. However, I know a lot about home title theft because I have battled this crime as a lawyer since 2003. Too often, I see YouTube videos, in which self-appointed deed fraud experts tell their viewers that there is nothing to worry about and they don’t need a title monitoring service. They. Are. Wrong.
Is the cost of a home title monitoring service like TitleShield™ and Home Title Lock cost worth it? The short answer is: Yes.
Think about this: Almost every homeowner has homeowner’s insurance – in fact, your mortgage company requires it – even though the chances that your house will burn down is infinitesimally small. People subscribe to title monitoring services for the same reason. You buy coverage, hoping you don’t need it, but if you do, you’re glad you spent the money.
Title monitoring is not title insurance; rather it picks up with title insurance ends. No title insurance company will monitor your home for title fraud, and as I explained in a previous article (What Does Title Insurance Cover?), early detection of the fraudster is critical to minimizing and unwinding the damage they do. That’s what makes home title monitoring worth the price.
Some counties offer home title monitoring services
There are about 3,143 counties in the United States. They all deal with the issue of deed fraud, and some of them have taken steps to provide title monitoring services to their constituents.
Some of them provide very basic title monitoring, and any time a deed gets recorded which pertains to your property, they send a letter via USPS to the property address. Marin County, California just implemented this program recently, and you can read about it here. Unfortunately, this snail mail process is only minimally helpful in the fight against title fraudsters.
Senior citizens are the largest demographic of deed fraud victims, and most often the perpetrators of deed fraud are the elders’ caregivers – family, friends or people who have been hired to take care of them. In those circumstances, the fraudsters have control of the mail, so even though the county mails notice to the victims, they never receive it. Also, the process to mail the notice and then for it to be delivered can take so long that by the time it is received, the crook has already taken out a mortgage on the property or sold it.
Somewhere between 120 and 300 counties offer an improved version of notice. Homeowners can sign up for the service for free and receive notice by email whenever a title document gets recorded. This eliminates the time delay of postal deliveries, but there is still the issue for elders whose worlds are controlled by unscrupulous, unethical, and probably criminal caregivers.
For homeowners in the other 2,147 counties, there are private title monitoring services
There are three primary private title monitoring services in the country, and they are Home Title Lock, which has hired Newt Gingrich to promote its services; LifeLock, which recently added title monitoring to its suite of identity theft services; and TitleShield™, which I personally developed based on my two decades-worth of fighting this title theft in court. I was actually in the trenches in this war.
Each company provides basic title monitoring service along with its own suite of added benefits. Obviously, since I created TitleShield™ based on my personal experiences fighting for dozens of victims of deed fraud, I think we are the best. But, I won’t belabor that point here; you make your own decision about which service best protects you.
What I will say is this: We all need to take affirmative steps to protect the senior citizens in our lives because many of them will be too proud to reach out for help or even to admit that they need help. With a title monitoring service, you can sign up to receive notifications when any title documents get recorded against properties owned by your elderly parents or grandparents. Then, if someone does take advantage of them, you can take steps to stop the fraud.
What is deed fraud?
I described this crime in detail in another article: Can Someone Steal Your Home Title?
The short answer is: Yes…and No. By committing deed fraud, criminals can make it appear that you sold or gave away your home or lost it to foreclosure. By doing this, they take away your ability to control what happens to your home. Once they have control of your title, they can take out a mortgage against it or even sell it to unsuspecting buyers, and in this way, it certainly feels like they stole your home title. Legally, you cannot lose your home title without your consent or without a court order. But…once crooks have “stolen” your title, you can’t get it back without a lawsuit.
Take a look at the article because I explained the four most common ways in which con artists “steal” home titles.
Although nobody keeps nationwide statistics about home title theft, anecdotal evidence indicates that is becoming more and more common. A recent NY Times study found that 3000 incidents of title fraud were reported between 2015 and 2019 in Brooklyn alone. In a recent news video, a Dallas County prosecutor said that over the last couple years, his office has found over 90 incidents of deed fraud, and they believe there are many more. Lastly, my friends who are real estate fraud detectives tell me that organized crime syndicates in Los Angeles have discovered home title fraud as an easy and lucrative way to fund their criminal operations, so you can assume all or most organized crime groups now know about this money-making opportunity or soon will.
Conclusion: Home Title Monitoring is Worth the Price
All home title monitoring services are inexpensive, and – believe me! – having the peace of mind to know that someone else is keeping an eye on your title is worth the cost. Unwinding the crime of home title theft is difficult and requires legal expertise, but it can be much easier if you receive early warning that someone is tampering with your title. I wish this service had been available to protect my clients who were victims of this crime.
– David Fleck, CEO