Published on July 25, 2019
Written by Anndrea Hart
Once considered rare, home title fraud is now thought by some experts to be one of the fastest growing cybercrimes in the U.S. Essentially, home title fraud happens when someone obtains title to your house by changing the ownership on the title from your name to theirs. This is usually done by stealing your identity first.
Once the title is in the fraudster’s name, he or she uses the property as collateral to secure as many loans as possible. Of course, the criminal has no intention of paying those loans back, making home title fraud potentially lucrative for those skilled in identity theft. Typically, the real homeowner knows nothing about the scam until receiving notice of foreclosure from the lender. A scary situation for the real homeowner.
It’s easy to confuse home title fraud with mortgage fraud, but they are very different. In mortgage fraud, a potential home buyer, seller or lender falsifies, lies or otherwise intentionally provides inaccurate information to obtain a mortgage loan. Home title fraud occurs well after the mortgage process is over.
In 2017, the FBI reported 301,580 wire fraud complaints resulting in losses of $1.4 billion. Narrowing that down to wire fraud involving real estate, and the FBI said over 9,600 people lost a total of $56 million in 2017. Not all of those losses can be traced to home title fraud, but it gives you an idea of how prevalent wire fraud is, in all its forms.
Home title fraud can happen to any homeowner at any time, but there are two groups of people who have been particularly vulnerable:
Like other types of identity fraud, the best way to protect against home title fraud is through awareness and diligence when it comes to your personal information. Keep these tactics in mind:
Notify the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) as soon as possible. Consider filing an identity theft report with your local police department.