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Home Title Theft

You protect yourself against credit card scams, but have you ever considered you might need to protect yourself from real estate crimes, too? Real estate scams are on the rise as the real estate industry remains competitive. It’s time you secured your data from real estate thieves and scammers. Clario protects your personal information from spies, which helps lessen the chances of falling victim.

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Is home title theft real?

You’ve probably heard stories about squatters illegally moving into empty houses and claiming them as their own for years without paying a cent. But that’s not the only home-related crime committed by liars, scammers, and thieves.


Home title theft is on the rise. According to the FBI, 11,578 people filed complaints related to rental and real estate scams totaling $350,328,166 with its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). That’s a 64% increase from 2020. In fact, crimes have been increasing steadily over the last few years, which makes them a major problem.  


The statistics show that anyone can become a victim of a home title crime, especially since it’s related to identity theft. Identity theft is so prevalent that there are various identity theft types. But don’t worry, you can prevent identity theft with a few online and offline best practices.

How can a home title be stolen?

Someone can steal your home title by stealing your personal or sensitive information, especially your date of birth and Social Security Number (SSN), which they use to transfer a title deed into their own name. Con artists can obtain your personal information in various ways. In many cases, however, they receive it via phishing attacks, like phishing email scams.  


Now that you know the increased frequency at which title deed frauds occur and how serious they are, you might be wondering how you can prevent them. We’ll get into all the prevention methods later, but the first thing you ought to do is ensure your email address hasn’t been breached.


Clario is an anti-spy app that helps protect your privacy. Its data breach monitor checks if your email address has been included in a data dump, so you can quickly secure it.  


Here’s how to use Clario’s data breach monitor:

  1. Download Clario on your device (Clario is compatible with Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android devices) and set up an account
  2. Tap Identity and hit the Add email button under Data breach monitor
  3. Enter your email address in the text box and tap Check
  4. Clario will run a quick scan of the dark web and let you know if your email is safe. If it has been included in a data leak, Clario will guide you in securing it. Follow the on-screen prompts to secure your email then and there.

What can happen if a deed or title is stolen?

The consequences of having your title deed stolen are dire and frustrating for victims. Here are the consequences of your title deed being stolen:

Criminals can illegally rent out the property

The goal of obtaining someone else’s title deed is usually to make money through it somehow. As such, scammers can illegally rent out a property to earn a monthly income. They can do this for years without detection. The risk is higher for an owner who is overseas, in a different state, or mentally incapacitated.

Open a home equity line of credit in the victim's name

Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are loans secured against the equity value of a property (using your home as collateral when taking out a loan). The appeal is that it offers competitive interest rates. Therefore, criminals can secure a HELOC in the victim’s name because it works out cheaper.

Sell the home to a legitimate buyer

If a criminal wants a huge lump sum, they’ll sell the home to a legitimate buyer and keep the profit. This is a common approach for unoccupied homes.

Refinance the mortgage to cash out the equity

Also called a reverse mortgage scam, refinancing a mortgage to cash out on the equity is one of the most dangerous approaches, as it could leave a homeowner homeless. The bank could also put a lien on the property (a legal claim to the home because you owe them money), which could result in it being foreclosed and your family getting evicted.

Types of homeowners that scammers can target

Given how complex home title fraud can be, scammers research their victims to ensure they can pull off the crime successfully.  


Here are the types of victims home title deed scammers target:

The elderly

The elderly often rely on advisors to help them understand and sign documents that include sensitive information. This makes them a big target for bad actors.

Owners of vacation and rental properties

Sometimes, financial scammers find it easier to target homeowners with investment properties because they might not pay as much attention to those properties.  

Homeowners who’ve been victims of identity theft

These victims are easy targets because their sensitive information has already been compromised, and it’s hard to contain the repercussions.

Owners that have paid off their mortgage

Homeowners who’ve paid off their mortgages are prime targets because criminals can sell off their properties for cash.

Signs you’re the victim of deed theft

Even if you haven’t been a victim of home-ownership theft, it’s necessary to know the signs, so you can take action should you be targeted in the future. Here’s what they are:

Unrecognized accounts listed on your credit report

If you don’t search your credit report often, start now. This allows you to quickly catch any suspicious accounts, so you can investigate and remove them.

Receiving mail about mortgage policies you aren’t aware of

If you notice unknown mortgage policies listed in your mail, that’s a sign you may have been defrauded.

You stop receiving bills

If your property-related bills suddenly stop showing up in the mail, guess what? It’s likely that someone else is receiving them because they’ve stolen your title deed. It could also give the false notion that you aren’t paying your bills, which could affect your credit applications in the future.

Your bills go unpaid and you receive a foreclosure notice

If you get a warning about missed payments even though you’ve been paying your property bills diligently, it could mean that someone has stolen your title deed. You must act fast to avoid losing your property.

How to protect your home title

Becoming a victim of home title theft can wreak havoc on your life and finances. Knowing what to look out for can help. Here are home title protection best practices you can implement

Pay attention to incoming bills

Go through your bills line by line to ensure that everything is as it should be. This will help you to quickly identify any suspicious activity, like unpaid bills, so you can investigate it.

Monitor your credit reports for signs of identity theft

Your credit report stays the same for the majority of the time. Monitoring and comparing it with previous reports helps you to quickly identify changes you haven’t initiated, like a new a credit inquiry or lower credit score.

Check the status of your property deed

Set up notifications or manually check this to ensure that no one is trying to steal your property deed. Property deed statuses can be viewed online in the US.

Open any letters you receive from a mortgage company

You shouldn’t receive any letters from mortgage companies you aren’t linked to. Checking letters from a mortgage business will help you determine if everything is in order, like your mortgage payments and personal information.

Periodically check all information about your property through your county's deeds office

Likewise, this will help you identify if any information is suspicious or incorrect, so you can investigate further.

Think about home title lock services

If your home is vacant, consider locking it to prevent home title theft.

What to do if you’re a victim

Afraid someone stole your title deed? Here’s what to do:

  • Report the fraud to your creditors and ask for an investigation
  • Notify the relevant companies and lenders, like the bank, utility company, title insurance company, and county clerk
  • Report identity theft to the FTC and your local police department
  • Change all your online passwords and use strong passwords
  • You’re responsible for protecting your sensitive information. Don’t share it with others.

Protect your personal information to avoid becoming a victim

At the core of title deed theft is identity theft. You must protect your personal information at all costs to lessen your chances of becoming a victim. Use the tips in this article and Clario’s data breach monitor to stay safe and keep your data secure.

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