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Mortgage fraud through your home title? Here's what to look for.

Yep, it can happen. Here are a few tips about title fraud and identity theft — to help protect yourself and your family when you take out a mortgage, or have a change in home ownership.

Jan 17, 2023

Originally posted July 5, 2022

Help protect yourself from identity theft and unimagined debt.

If you plan on buying a home or property in Canada, you can protect yourself and your family from becoming victims of home title fraud with a few simple steps.

What is title fraud?

Your home title declares your ownership rights. Title fraud is when someone steals your title (or your identity) to steal funds using your home's value:

  • The most common form of title fraud involves someone 'impersonating' you or stealing your identity.
  • The criminals forge documents to change the title on your home or property without your knowledge.
  • They take out a mortgage on your title and then disappear with the money.
  • Or, recent cases have arisen where criminals try to sell a home (and collect the cash) without the owner's knowledge.

If they succeed, the 'funds' they're able to have advanced on a mortgage or sale in your name may leave you, the actual owner, holding the bag and having to repay that amount.

Take a few simple steps to protect against title fraud:

  • Before buying a home, have a lawyer check the property ownership history for any irregularities or a false mortgage discharge.
  • Also, ask your lawyer to look for more than just the title deed, such as survey or plot plans, tax bills and assessment notices for anything that doesn't add up.
  • Use a highly-qualified real estate lawyer for your home purchase to ensure that mortgage title discharge procedures are correctly followed (to help prevent an opening for a fraudster to take advantage).
  • Lenders may require you to purchase Title Insurance to protect against title fraud. Even if they don't, you may decide to get it on your own. It's a relatively inexpensive, one-time expense that will cover you for many years (depending on the provider).
  • You can regularly check the title of your home. You'll need identifying details to do a title search, usually done through a provincial registry agent or your provincial government website.
  • In the event of the death of someone who is part of a co-ownership or multigenerational mortgage, it's important to have their name removed to prevent the advance of fraudulent funds.

Be alert! Here are the possible signs of identity fraud to detect it early:

  • Tax statements or bills are unexpectedly mailed to your home, but addressed to a different person.
  • You receive a phone call from someone inquiring about a new mortgage or a sale arranged for your property.
  • Bills do not arrive as expected.
  • Creditors contact you regarding purchases you did not make.
  • There are discrepancies in your bank or credit card statements.

It's important to regularly check your bank accounts, credit card statements, utility bills, and credit rating to ensure everything is in order.

Have more questions about mortgage fraud? Give us a call or drop by one of our convenient store locations.

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