When people typically think of identity theft, they don’t think of deed fraud. Also known as home title fraud, deed fraud occurs when someone forges your name on a deed and takes your title home once they’ve stolen your identity. And the situation becomes increasingly challenging over time, considering that even upon discovery, you may be dealing with property damage, fraudulently sold property, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
A typical scenario of deed fraud occurs when a forger scans the obituaries for vulnerable properties, usurping the deed of a property that becomes vulnerable due to the death of its previous owner. If you inherit a home from the death of a family member, consider the best form of home title protection by initiating probate on the estate as soon as possible while monitoring the deed registry. Other primary targets include vacation homes and unoccupied or abandoned homes.
The Warning Signs
A few telltale signs that you’ll want to monitor to see if you’ve become a deed fraud victim include multiple notices for unpaid bills, whether for the mortgage, tax, water, or anything else. Some cases may have you receiving no bills at all, as the thief may alter the billing address to hide the crime. The worst sign is receiving a notice of foreclosure, especially when you don’t even have a mortgage. Other easy signs include evidence of activity at a home that’s supposed to be unoccupied.
You may wonder why the deed registry doesn’t have better screening practices. The registries check if the deed format is proper, signed, and notarized when recording them. But registries don’t always function so that they’re comparing signatures on record or investigating forgeries and legitimacy. However, there are several things you can do to help protect your home title.
The earlier you become suspicious or discover that you’ve become a victim of deed fraud, your chances at recovery are better. First, you’ll want to monitor your credit reports. You have the legal right to a free copy, and it’ll reveal financial actions in your name. You can even receive a free report from each resource every four months, alternating from Equifax one period, then Experian, then TransUnion. There are also various identity theft protection services available.
You can also check your deed’s status by accessing local deed registries online. If your registry is accessible this way, check it regularly to confirm that it’s safe and that no one’s doing or has done anything to affect your property ownership. Some registries offer to notify you whenever changes occur affecting your property. You may also want to consider buying an owner’s title insurance policy, which offers significant theft and fraud protection.
Hopefully, these tips for home title protection can help you fight against deed fraud.