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Deed theft: Protect Yourself

In Buyers, Homeowners, Sellers by Doug Phelps

Deed theft has become one of the scariest and most advanced scams homeowners can face today.  In our digital world, scammers can steal your bank information and credit card number but a new kind of identity theft is leaving immense fear and damage in its path, called deed theft.  Also known as title theft, this is something devastating that can possibly sneak under the radar and all homeowners should watch out for and be on alert. While extremely rare, victims of this type of criminal activity are unfortunately increasing and the first line of defense is education. 

What is it?

As it implies, deed or title theft is when a scammer takes over the deed to your home in a criminal way.  This is illegal and a form of identity theft.  You may have already heard of deed theft and assume that it is just a paperwork issue, but it is far more than that. Contrary to the fear-inducing idea that someone could simply forge documents and take over your home, this scam is more complex and scammers are very creative with how they get what they want and once a scammer has ownership of your home it’s very hard to reclaim and they can also possibly kick you out of your own home.

How does it happen?

For one, homeowners scared of deed theft may seek out supposed insurance or protection from a third-party company, aside from their mortgage company.  When signing up for this “extra coverage” a homeowner may divulge very personal information and suddenly the scammer has all the homeowners information and can start the process of deed theft.  This type of scam also happens via email or phone call from a scammer reaching out to homeowners who may be behind on their mortgage payments. This payment or debt specialist may require a homeowner to sign paperwork and these carefully worded documents may very well allow the scammer to take ownership of the home.  Just know that there are other ways it can happen as well.

What can I do to protect myself?

Sure, this is a scary possibility but there are ways you can protect yourself and your home.

  • Know that someone can’t steal your home so easily. Scammers prey on homeowners with fear, so if you get a message or call from someone claiming to be from your bank or mortgage company don’t give them information. Instead, locate the company’s 1-800 number and confirm with them.  Also, don’t seek out third-party insurance against this as many of them are scammers.  
  • Your best bet is to purchase a home with title insurance. All homeowners should be on the lookout for this scam so reach out directly to your mortgage company or bank to add this kind of coverage if you don’t already have it in place from the purchase of your current home.  When speaking to your mortgage company, you can also inquire about other ways to protect yourself.
  • Use your best judgement.  If you get a message or call that doesn’t feel right, don’t give out any information and just ignore it.  Again, this type of identity theft is much more than a forged document so use extreme caution if a stranger calls you to dig for personal information.
  • Look out for forged deeds of trust and never sign documents not directly from your mortgage company or title company that you have verified 100%. 

 Do you have concerns or questions about deed theft? Are you in the market to buy or sell your home?  Call and text me at (720) 323-4176 or email me at [email protected]

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