The fear of home title theft is becoming a growing problem across the United States with more companies offering title fraud protection services. From radio and television ads to news coverage and social media, many homeowners are starting to fear that their home is going to be stolen from right under them. However, there are precautions that you can take to ensure that your home and family are protected.
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What is Home Title Theft?
As the name suggests, home title theft is the process of fraudulently putting a home’s title in another person’s name. Someone will steal your identity then use your information to forge a deed to make it look as if they’re the rightful owner. Home title theft can occur in numerous ways:
- The thief may refinance the mortgage, cash out the equity, and use that money for themselves. Of course, they will not be making the monthly mortgage payments, which means the homeowner will face foreclosure.
- Another common scenario is the thief opening a home equity line of credit in your name to cash out on the equity.
- Thieves may also target empty homes such as rental properties and use the forged deed to sell the home without the owner knowing.
Carrie Kerskie, President of identity theft and cybersecurity risk management firm Kerskie Group says that title theft is not common in her experience and that she has only experienced a handful of these cases in her career. The FBI estimates that 9,600 U.S. homeowners were victims of title fraud, which is minor compared to the roughly 87 million homes owned in the United States.
How to Protect Yourself from Title Fraud
Home title theft can happen, but it is unlikely to occur if you take the proper precautions. Like other cybercrimes, identity thieves are looking for easy targets. However, home title theft can be complicated from the criminal’s side due to the layers of protection that the lender, title company, and county recorders have in place. As a homeowner, you can also implement security measures to protect yourself and your home such as:
Checking Your Home’s Title Records
In most counties, homeowners can access property records online for free. Kosciusko and Wells Counties, for example, also offer property watch alerts to homeowners that will alert you of any changes associated with your property. You can register for this free service here. While fraud monitoring companies such as Title Lock offer this monitoring service for an annual or monthly cost, homeowners should utilize the free services at their disposal through their county recorder.
Purchase Owner’s Title Insurance
When purchasing your home, many lenders request that title insurance be purchased to protect them and that the home is cleared for sale, however, buyers should also consider purchasing a policy for themselves. An owner’s title insurance policy is a one-time cost at closing and protects the homeowner against any title defects or liens associated with their property. Owner’s title insurance also eliminates the need for Title lock or similar services.
Keep Track of Bills
If you stop receiving monthly utility bills or other statements, there is a chance that your deed status may be at risk. If you’ve noticed that you never received a monthly statement or automatic withdrawal, contact the company immediately. While it could be an administrative error, you could be saving yourself from a major headache.
Monitor Your Credit
Keeping regular tabs on your credit score is good practice, regardless of title fraud. Checking your report regularly, keeping up with payments, and checking for fraudulent charges is an effective way to protect yourself.
Metropolitan Title has You Covered
Protecting your family and your home is Metropolitan Title’s top priority. Title insurance not only protects you from the past but will also insures your home for life. To learn more about Metropolitan Title’s escrow and title insurance services, contact a member of our team today.