Impersonation scams are getting more challenging to spot. Thieves are better at spoofing companies and government agencies than ever. Tap or click here for details of a recent scheme where crooks impersonated IRS agents.
Losing a few bucks to a scammer is one thing. But imagine losing your entire home! That’s about the worst-case scenario possible. Unfortunately, scammers are now targeting your home; if you’re not careful, you could fall into their trap.
These schemes saw an uptick in cases reported during the financial crisis in 2008. Now, there’s been a sudden resurgence of this nasty plot, and it’s taken on a dangerous new tone. Keep reading for all the tricky details.
Here’s the backstory
How have home title scammers changed their game over the last decade? If you’re not careful, you may accidentally sign your entire deed away without even realizing it.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), these scams are skyrocketing across the U.S. Here’s how they work.
Say you’re behind on your mortgage payments, and an alleged foreclosure specialist reaches out to you. The person seems trustworthy and has a plan to help you keep your home.
In some cases, the “specialist” offers to modify your mortgage and lower payments. To get the ball rolling, you need to sign some legal documents. This is where the real danger begins.
If you don’t read the documents carefully, or if you allow the thief to fill in documents after you’ve signed, you may well sign something that transfers the title of your home to the scammer. Yikes!
The thing is, the person isn’t a foreclosure specialist at all. In reality, scammers are using public records to find homeowners who are in foreclosure or behind on their mortgages.
In another version of this scam, the con might ask you to sign over the deed to your home for safekeeping. They claim the property will be signed over to a trusted relative. This way, you can avoid foreclosure. But that doesn’t happen.
The crook actually transfers your home to their name or the name of a shell company. The house will technically belong to the swindler if the document is notarized and filed with the county clerk.
Once the thief has your home’s deed in their name, they can force you to pay rent or even kick you out of your home. Legally taking back possession of your home once the deed is signed over to a thief is nearly impossible.
That’s why it’s critical to know how to handle these scammers if they contact you.
How to avoid deed theft
The BBB gave suggestions on how to avoid deed theft. Here are some helpful ideas:
- Refuse to sign over your deed. Don’t let a scammer pressure you to sign over your home in return for repaired credit or to avoid foreclosure. If you sign over your deed to someone else, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it back.
- Watch out for high-pressure offers. Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to provoke an emotional reaction in their victims. If someone pressures you to act or claims you’ll lose your house if you don’t accept their help, be wary. You are likely dealing with a con artist.
- Stay alert to false promises. Scammers often pose as foreclosure rescue specialists who can guarantee your home is safe if you accept their services. Keep in mind that a legitimate business won’t make promises they may not be able to keep.
- Get help from trustworthy sources. If you are behind on your mortgage or other bills or have received a pre-foreclosure notice, contact a local housing counseling organization to get help. In the U.S., see this list of government-approved housing counseling services.
If you spot a scam targeting homeowners, report it at BBB.org Scam Tracker. This can help others avoid falling victim to these types of scams.
Bonus: Protect your home
Home title theft protection is one way to avoid falling victim to deed fraud. On top of the scams we told you about earlier, cybercriminals can locate your home’s title online and remove your name from it. Then they can use their name to take over the title and refile it.
Homeowner’s insurance and standard identity theft programs will not cover home title theft. Our sponsor, Home Title Lock, protects you from title theft and will help you reclaim your title if you do fall victim and have to go to court.
Sign up at HomeTitleLock.com today to protect your home, and don’t forget to let them know Kim sent you!