Is it possible for scammers to steal your home right out from under your nose? Sadly, the answer is yes. It was in 2008 when the FBI first reported on the scam, calling it house stealing. The Bureau described it as a mix of two popular scams – identity theft and mortgage fraud. In the present day, we estimate as 10,000 home title theft claims are made every year in the United States. You would be surprised to know that merely in the County of Los Angeles (where TitleShield™ was created), approximately 500 reports of real estate crimes are reported every year.

How does real estate title theft generally work?

Title theft, also known as deed theft, occurs when con artists fraudulently assume a homeowner’s identity and change the ownership on the home deed from the owner’s name to their name. Once the ownership is changed, they may:

  • Open a home equity line of credit and flee with the money
  • Sell the home
  • Refinance the mortgage, cash out the equity, and run away with the difference. Also, they don’t pay the new mortgage, as a result the property goes in foreclosure
  • Force the real homeowners to shell out legal fees to get back the ownership

To avoid home title theft, property owners should monitor their title history with a premier home title theft protection company like TitleShield™.

Identity theft and home title theft: check these insights

Home title theft is usually a result of identity theft. Senior homeowners are generally at a higher risk for identity theft. Also, they have more equity in their homes – as a result scammers can borrow more money from unsuspecting lenders against the equity of the property. Identity thieves can also target homeowners who own second homes, vacation homes, and real estate investment properties. As they don’t use the properties as their main residences, they may miss the warning signs such as rising utility bills, mortgage information from a lender they’ve never done business with, or notices of foreclosure.

To commit title theft, the fraudster needs to have access to the title history of your home. As these documents are publicly available at your county government office, it becomes easy for the con artist to steal your identity as a homeowner. They use forged documents to fraudulently transfer your home title to their name – they use your forged signature, the signature of the notary, and the notary’s stamp on a new deed that transfers ownership to themselves. Con artists skilled in identity theft don’t transfer the property ownership to their names as they don’t want anything to trace back to them. They transfer the property to an entity that they control – and when legal authorities start investigating, they can’t find any association between the con artists and the entity.

Here’re some of the methods used by con artists to commit identity theft:

1. Dumpster Diving:

In this method, identity thieves search trash cans for sensitive information such as discarded credit card receipts, bank account statements, utility bills, canceled checks, old driver’s license, deposit slips, and correspondence related to Social Security Number (SSN). They can learn a lot about a homeowner from the trash they throw away.

2. Phishing:

Scamsters send the property owner an email, which claims to be from a legitimate source, such as their bank, brokerage, online services company, and credit card company. The emails request that they click on a link and visit the website for additional important information. Once on the site, they are asked to provide personal and financial information such as their name, telephone numbers, date of birth (DOB), SSN, credit card number, and so on to proceed further.

3. Mail theft:

Con artists steal mails to get information about the property owner and then use it for monetary gain. Important information that thieves might collect include the property owner’s name and address, SSN, telephone number, email address, DOB, bank account information, credit card statement, and employment history. One particular type of mail theft is called red flagging – where homeowners place their mailbox flag up to alert the postal delivery person that the outgoing mail is in the box for pick up. However, mailboxes with flags raised also alert identity thieves who look for residential mailboxes with the red flag up.

4. Wi-fi hacking:

Con artists can use multiple ways to collect information from public internet users. A common method used by scammers to snoop on the data on a person’s mobile device is the “Evil Twin” technique. “Evil Twin” is a wireless network that appears to be a reliable network but all communications over this network can be accessed and monitored by scamsters. To lure users into handing over their personal and financial information, scammers create fake login pages where they see a screen that prompts them to fill in their credit card details to purchase Wi-Fi access.

Conclusion: Identity theft can be committed in different ways
With the rapid advancement in technology, con artists now have more opportunities than ever before to access a homeowner’s personal and financial information. We’ll soon cover some important tips on how you can safeguard your sensitive information. So, keep watching this space.

– David Fleck, CEO

Prev Post

What are the Top 5 Worst Identity Theft Crimes to be aware of?

Is Your Home Equity Safe from Title Fraud?

Title Shield™ actively watches your home title to protect you from identity theft and title fraud. Your homeowner’s title insurance policy is important, but it does not notify you when fraud occurs. Title Shield™ is the only early warning title monitoring service that is secured by cutting-edge blockchain technology.

Translate »