Unfortunately, there have been a few incidents this year of homeowners coming home to a sold or listed home without their consent.
Property fraud is a growing problem globally, and it’s essential to be aware of the risks. Property fraud, also known as deed fraud or “house-stealing,” occurs when someone illegally records false documents that appear to transfer property ownership from its rightful owner to themselves to sell the home to another person. This type of crime can have severe financial and legal consequences for victims.
Real estate fraud is a serious issue that can result in financial loss. Two main types of real estate fraud are title fraud and foreclosure fraud. Title fraud means there is an illegal sale or a new mortgage applied against your home, usually starting with identity theft.
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Foreclosure fraud happens when somebody tricks you into transferring your property title to them in exchange for a loan that doesn’t help with mortgage payments; payments go to the fraudster, and they possess the title to your home, which they can resell or remortgage.
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself from property fraud.
According to the federal government, title fraud usually starts with identity theft. Then the fraudster will either sell the home or remortgage the house.
Protect Your Identity
Protecting yourself against fraud involves being mindful of your personal information and money. Preventative measures are key! Be wary of people asking for small loans, and never give out personal information on the phone or over the internet.
Store important identification documents safely and shred or burn any documents containing personal information. Keep track of mailed bills or have mail sent to a post office box instead of a home address.
Protect yourself against fraud by refusing to give out credit card information if you receive a call about donating and being careful with emails requesting you log onto websites. Be skeptical of free prizes or any threatening phone calls. Remember that professional organizations such as banks, CRA, and others will not threaten arrest or ask for personal information over the phone.
Do Your Research
Always verify the identity of anyone who contacts you regarding a real estate transaction, and only sign something after reading it thoroughly.
Do a land title search with your provincial or territorial land registry office, which will show the property owner’s name and any mortgages or liens registered on the title.
It’s also important to be aware of common scams related to real estate transactions. For example, some scammers will try to get you to pay fees upfront before providing any services or paperwork for a trade. It’s best to wait to give any money until all paperwork has been completed and filed with the appropriate authorities.
Consider purchasing title insurance when buying or selling property as an extra layer of protection against title fraud or errors in public records that could lead to fraudulent claims on your property. Title insurance, though not required in all provinces, can protect property owners against losses related to the property.
Contact Canada’s two credit rating agencies, TransUnion and Equifax, and ask them to put a fraud alert on your file. Also, contact your financial institutions and companies where you think accounts may be affected.
Remember to keep your mortgage information safe, speak with your lawyer before giving someone else the right to your home, and research anyone who tries to offer you a loan. By taking these simple steps and staying informed about potential scams, you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim of property fraud.
Suppose you think you have fallen victim to title fraud. The federal government recommends contacting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, contacting your provincial land registry’s office, and filing a police report.
Working with a reputable real estate agent can also help you ensure you don’t fall victim to fraudulent activity when purchasing and/or selling a property. Give us a call today to find a real estate agent in your area.
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Abbey is Zoocasa's Content Marketing Specialist, creating content to help Canadians make informed decisions on the real estate market. As a textbook Hamiltonian, Abbey enjoys walking the Bruce Trail near the Devil's Punchbowl. You'll catch Abbey soaking up the sun, reading a book or watching Netflix with her furbabies when she's not working.