Everything you need to know about home title fraud

Home title fraud — also called real estate fraud — is on the rise thanks to increasingly sophisticated scammers.

According to the latest stats from the FBI, in 2021, there were:

11,578 cases of real estate fraud, totaling more than $350 million in losses.

That marked a 20% jump in the number of cases and a 525 % increase in losses since 2017.

Here’s everything you need to know about home title fraud so you don’t become the latest victim.

What is Home Title Fraud?

Home title fraud occurs when scammers steal your identity and use that info to change ownership of your home’s title from your name to theirs. In one version of the scam, thieves take out loans using your home’s equity as collateral. You likely won’t even know it happened until you start receiving letters from unpaid lenders demanding money to keep them from foreclosing on your home.

In another version of the scam, thieves attempt to use the stolen deed (the document stating you own your home) to sell your home. They take the money and run before victims even realize they’ve purchased stolen property.

How to Protect Yourself

Experian lists several steps to protect yourself from home title fraud. Pay attention to details. Here’s a breakdown of ways to keep yourself safe:

Check your credit report. If you monitor your credit report regularly, you’re more likely to catch fraudulent activity.

Monitor bills. One sign that you’ve been the victim of identity theft is that you suddenly stop receiving regular bills, like the water or trash bill. Make sure you are paying attention to your bills to keep safe.

Review home documents. Every so often, make sure that the deed on your home matches the deed at the county’s deed office.

Chris O'Shea via Savvy Money