Question: I hear a lot recently about the title theft, where a fraudster can steal the title to my home. What should I do to protect myself?
Answer: My senior clients are asking about title theft more often in the past few months. But is the risk real?
- Yes, it is possible for a fraudster to steal your identity and sign a deed trying to “sell” your property.
- No, this would not actually work in a legal sense. (Though it may cause a mess to clean up.)
Your home is likely safe, thanks to practical protections in the home buying process. Even if a fraudster stole your identity, and offered to “sell” your home…who is going to buy it sight unseen? Any reasonable buyer or their lender would require a walkthrough or appraisal. When they enter your home to find you sitting on the couch, the fraud would be revealed. Your vacation home, on the other hand, may be less safe.
An aggressive fraudster could possibly dupe a buyer, by breaking in and showing your vacant home. However, if you show up to find another family living in your vacation home, you will still win the legal fight, as the true owner. This is why title insurance exists — to cover the buyer’s risk of being duped.
Don’t be influenced by the recent influx of advertising and “news” stories hawking title theft protection insurance services. Do be diligent securing your vacation properties with traditional security monitoring services. Monitor your credit report occasionally and keep watch for incoming bills, like taxes and insurance, for anomalies.
Priority Law advises clients on real estate transactions.
This article was originally published in the Lowell Sun and is for informational purposes only and not to be relied on as legal advice, in any manner.