What You Should Know About Title Fraud
Most people are aware of the importance of protecting their identities online. Equally important, however, is making sure you have adequate property title protection as well. Whereas just a few years ago title fraud was nearly unheard of, it’s fast becoming one of the most common — and expensive — threats to homeowners. Here are some things you should know about title fraud.
How Does It Happen?
There are several ways in which title fraud can take place. One of the most common is after someone dies. Fraudsters will research obituaries to look for vulnerable homes and forge deeds, or steal private information in order to transfer the deed, or mortgage the house. Criminals will also target vacation homes or second, unoccupied homes. Sometimes they will sell a home out from under the real owner, or they’ll actually move in.
How Can You Tell if You’re a Victim?
There are a few clear signs to indicate that you’ve been targeted for title fraud. If you seem to be missing some recent bills, this could be an indication that they’ve been redirected in order to hide the crime. You might not even notice that a bill or two has gone missing, so if you start receiving late notices, then that’s further indication that you’ve been attacked. A notice of foreclosure that comes out of nowhere is a big telltale sign that someone screwing with your identity. Also, if you notice any signs of life at an unoccupied property, then that’s a problem as well. For instance, if a heating or power bill shows a sudden, unexplained increase, then you might have a squatter or a fraudster on your property.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Keep a close watch on your credit reports. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit agencies, so periodically look to see if your credit rating has taken a hit in recent weeks. It’s also a good idea to check on the status of your home’s deed. Most local registries make it possible to check online, so it’s worth signing up for it if you can. One of the best things you can do is to sign up for titleprotection insurance. This will protect you from fraud, and cover the expenses associated with fixing the issue.
By keeping track of your credit and finances — and purchasing title protection insurance — you can keep the bad guys away and protect your home in the process.