Home Title Theft – What Is It and How to Protect Yourself by Alina Lopez
Imagine that you own a property, and in some cases is paid off, only to find out that said property is no longer yours and has been fraudulently stolen and even sold. This kind of fraud, known as home title theft or deed theft, is a growing concern nationwide. Locally, police have received over 50 reported cases since the beginning of 2020. Perhaps you’ve heard of this trend on radio or tv commercials advertising a company that will monitor your records, but are fully unaware of exactly what it is. In today’s blog, we will be explaining this crime, what to do if you’re victimized, and how to try to protect yourself from it occurring.
So, what exactly is this home title theft? It’s the process of fraudulently putting a house deed in another person’s name by stealing your identity and forging a deed, making it look like they’re the property owner. It’s another form of identity theft basically. Those with significant home equity are most likely targets of deed theft. Unfortunately, many victims are senior citizens, maybe because they’re more likely to have their homes paid off and/or have multiple properties. Speaking of owning multiple properties, another big target for thieves is people with those second homes or investment realty. These assets sometimes may be overlooked and not much attention is paid to them as the primary residence, especially if it’s empty land. This is a great opportunity for a thief to steal because they will have more time to commit the crime before the owner notices.
This crime can be a big problem for the victim! If a thief succeeds in securing your deed, they may open an equity line of credit in your name, attempt to sell your home, refinance your mortgage and cash out the equity, all while forcing you at the end to incur legal fees and clear the title.
If you’ve stopped receiving bills or property tax statements, received notification of foreclosure, or been notified of suspicious loans or new lines of credit in your name, it may be a sign that you have been conned. Contact the companies where you’ve identified the fraud has occurred and file a report with your local police department.
Although protection against home title theft is more reactionary, there still are things proactively that one can do to try and prevent it from happening.
- Stay on top of your credit report
- Periodically check your information with the property appraiser’s office to verify the owner information is still the same
- Frequently visit those second homes or empty lots and if you can’t personally attend to them, have someone stop by to check occasionally
- If applicable, register for your county property appraiser notification service to alert you any time a document is recorded
In Miami-Dade County, the Clerk of Courts sends a courtesy letter to the owner whenever a Quit Claim Deed is recorded. Also, as a property owner, you should receive a Notice of Proposed Taxes at the end of August each year. If you do not receive this, or there are discrepancies, it is important that you take further action. Miami-Dade Police Department’s Economic Crimes Unit investigates this kind of deed theft and you can contact them at 305-994-1000. Additionally, you may need to obtain the services of an attorney.
To contact our office, call us at 305-470-1670 or visit our webpage www.citizenscrimewatch.org.
Until next time, be aware, make good choices, and stay safe.
Written By: Alina Lopez