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What is Home Title Monitoring?

Home title monitoring is the process of keeping home titles, real estate files, and property records under close observation to protect homeowners against title fraud. With 34% of American landholders having 100% equity in their property, home title theft has become an exponentially growing scam. Between 2015 and 2020 alone, complaints tied to fraudulent real estate loans based on identity theft have increased by over 6,100%. Thieves forge the true owner’s name on deeds or title documents and file them at the original county courthouse. Their goal is to take out a loan by using the "stolen" home as collateral or "sell" it to unsuspecting buyers. By staying informed about your tax liens, contractor liens, judgment liens, and property records, you can prevent being conned through homeownership crimes.

What is Home Title Monitoring?

What Does Home Title Monitoring Include?

Complete Title Monitoring

To protect a person’s biggest investments from house stealing scams, title monitoring detects and alerts home owners if their deeds suffer any changes that could affect the current ownership of primary homes, second homes, rental properties, or vacation homes.

Monitor Your Deed Status

Regular checks of the deeds’ status could point out fraudulent actions that affect the ownership of real estate possessions. Owners can track recorded liens on their properties to spot suspicious updates or know when scammers try to transfer a deed out of the true owner’s name.

Property Fraud Alerts

Automatic fraud notifications are sent to the owner’s chosen contact method (email or phone number) whenever someone attempts to record a falsified document that unlawfully deeds a home to them or when thieves use it to get a mortgage against a “stolen” property.

Public Records Monitoring

Advanced search tools take the monitoring of public records for a certain property further by identifying land, mortgage, or property-related civil judgments, bankruptcy data, state tax liens, federal tax liens, and other suspicious fraud-related information that might pop up.

How Can Home Title Monitoring Protect Me?

Title fraud

For homeowners who worry about the threat of title fraud, home title monitoring provides a way of preventing it by closely checking the registry of deeds for changes that affect the home title or attempts to forge property deeds by bad actors who illegitimately put their name on it.

Deed Theft

When someone fraudulently changes the original name on a house deed, criminals steal the real owner’s identity. After forging the deed, they sell the property to gullible buyers or refinance it without repaying the mortgage in order to facilitate foreclosure and cash in the value.

Mortgage Fraud

Home title monitoring could help against thieves who use asset/income falsification or identity theft to defraud lenders through the mortgage process. Mortgage fraud scams involve obtaining a mortgage after providing false details and making untrue or misleading claims in the mortgage application.

Illegal Transfer

This criminal act occurs when a property is transferred using illegal means, such as forging a gift deed, a will, or a sale deed, imitating signatures on ownership documents, misuse of power of attorney, or wrongfully transferring the property by impersonating someone else or deliberately concealing facts.

Home Equity Fraud

The most frequent type of equity fraud takes place when criminals get a Home Equity Line Of Credit (HELOC) by using the real owner’s information obtained from public records. After falsifying the homeowner’s signature, they can reroute the home loan and receive the line of credit themselves.

Incorrect Deed Description

The wrong description on the deed could affect the validity of a real estate transaction and trigger a chain of legal issues that get passed from one owner to the next. Errors include incorrect parcel/lot depiction, failing to cover the entire area purchased in a sale, misspelling of name or address.

Home Title Monitoring Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens If A Property Title Is Stolen?

If someone steals your home title, you could end up losing your property by becoming a victim of a crime known as “identity theft house stealing” or “property title theft.” By stealing the title, your identity, or both, scam artists could replace the ownership on the property title from your name to theirs, then sell your home, take out loans by using your property as collateral, or refinance it without covering the mortgage and allowing it to go into foreclosure. Another consequence for property owners who have been subjected to house stealing is the damage to their credit that can take years to fix, subjecting them to the legal fees which have to be paid in the process.

What is Home Title Fraud?

Home title fraud is the illegal transfer of property ownership (title) without the legitimate owner's knowledge or consent. Borrowing money against someone else’s property without them knowing also qualifies as title fraud. Sometimes scammers try to foreclose on the home, and the real homeowner is unaware of the con until they start receiving letters from the lender/bank.

How Often Does Home Title Fraud Happen?

Targeting mainly unoccupied homes, vacation homes, or abandoned homes, home title fraud remains a rare occurrence but ranks among the faster-growing crimes in the US. The following statistics prove it:

  • According to the FBI, , in 2017, over 9,500 victims suffered losses of more than $56 million to real estate and title fraud schemes in California alone.
  • In 2018, 11,300 reported cases of real estate fraud were facilitated by Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Email Account Compromise (EAC) scams - known as BEC/EAC scams.
  • FBI reported that between 2015 and 2017 the number of reported BEC/EAC real estate scams increased by 1,100% and losses rose by 2,200%.
  • For the second quarter of 2018, analytics firm CoreLogic reported a 12.4% year-over-year surge compared with the same timeframe from the previous year.
  • In 2018, CoreLogic estimated that one in almost 110 mortgage applications contained at least a fraudulent element.

Does Homeowner Insurance Protect You from Title Theft?

Title fraud is not typically covered by title insurance which normally protects lenders and real estate owners from property loss or damage caused by encumbrances, liens, or defects in the title to the property. Homeowner Insurance won’t protect owners from scammers, cybercrime, deed fraud, title thieves, scammers, but could include taking legal actions to prove the rightful proprietorship of the property. For your peace of mind, the best alternative is to be constantly aware and to prevent title theft through periodical checks of your property records or by subscribing to a title monitoring service, credit monitoring, or similar notification services.

How can You Protect Yourself from Home Title Fraud?

Here are the Best Practices that could help You Prevent Title Fraud:

  • Never share personal information via phone, unknown links, or emails.
  • Keep an eye out for missing tax, water, other utilities, or mortgage bills.
  • Refrain from signing papers you don’t trust and always ask for clarifications.
  • Use long, complex passwords for digital accounts and change them a few times per year.
  • Don’t open attachments from unknown/suspicious senders.
  • Subscribe to third-party services like title protection, title monitoring, or identity theft protection.
  • Make routine checks on your property records to confirm that they still have your name on and the home information/address is correct.
  • Visit your properties regularly to make sure the place is clear of for-sale signs or suspicious activities.
  • Monitor your free credit reports, available from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

What To Do If You Suspect You Are A Victim of Title Fraud?

If you think you’ve been exposed to property fraud, here’s what you need to do next:

  • Call all the financial institutions that have the power to freeze the funds.
  • Contact the local county recorder and send them evidence that supports your ownership, such as deed or proof of mortgage.
  • File a report with the local and federal law enforcement, your local FBI office included.
  • Ask your title insurance company if your policy covers post-closing falsification claims.
  • Alert the three Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) and ask them to investigate and solve the falsified information from your credit report.
  • Reach out to an attorney specialized in title litigation and real estate fraud.

What Kinds of Properties Are Targeted By Home Title Fraudsters?

House thieves mainly target owners with a good credit rating and people who own second homes. Mortgage-free properties are particularly at risk because most of the time scammers aim to apply for a substantial mortgage and in this case, the transaction could seamlessly go ahead. High-value properties that are either tenanted, vacant (with the owner moved into care or deceased), or being refurbished are also vulnerable.

What Segments of The Population Are More Exposed To Home Title Frauds?

Frequently, title fraud is committed by an acquaintance of the victim, such as paid caregivers. Seniors are particularly exposed more often to this type of fraud since they own more assets than other groups, they’re uninformed regarding this type of crime, they might be isolated, or they have spent decades investing in retirement funds and maintaining higher levels of credit-worthiness. Scammers might also go for uninformed people looking to buy or rent and they could make use of spear-phishing tactics, identity theft, and standard identity spoofing techniques.

Can Someone Steal the Title to Your House?

By forging a home title, thieves can put someone’s house deed in their name and steal the property from them. Here are the main methods used:

  • The fraudster refinances the mortgage, cashes out the equity, and keeps the profit.
  • They use a forged deed to sell the home (applies to empty rental properties and vacation homes).
  • Scammers open a HELOC on behalf of the owner, taking out the equity without finalizing the home sale.
  • Perpetrators offer to “refinance” homeowners in crisis, with the deal being then filed as an authentic home sale, therefore the ownership is transferred straight to the thief.
  • According to the FBI, this crime has a higher incidence in major American cities like New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

How Does Home Title Monitoring Work?

By selecting the property that you want to keep under observation, the IDStrong automatic tools will diligently engage in a monthly monitoring of public records databases and notify you (the owner) when updates to your house title are detected, such as change of owner, new property record, new lender, or modified financing.

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