01 Jul HOME TITLE FRAUD
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOME TITLE FRAUD
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program
Greetings! — It’s July 2021 and the year is officially half over! Wow. Time often seems to slip by without our notice, doesn’t it? Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends perhaps on your POV. But I’m guessing that we can all agree that having your home sold out from underneath you — without your notice — is definitely a bad thing and something to be avoided. It may be difficult to imagine how such a scenario could happen, but sadly, it happens way too often. According to the FBI (1), approximately 9,600 individuals were defrauded out of $56M in 2017 due to “home title fraud,” aka “deed fraud.” Here are some tips to help us understand exactly what “Home Title Fraud” is and how we can steer clear of it!
HOME TITLE FRAUD DEFINED
In a nutshell, “Home Title Fraud” is when criminals impersonate you as a homeowner and fraudulently obtain the title to your home so they can profit from refinancing or selling it. To accomplish this without your notice, con artists obtain your personal information (through identity theft or by stealing your mail), create fake documents, and then forge your signature. For example, fraudsters may create a fake driver’s license – it will have your personal info on it, but not your picture; instead, there will be a photo of the scammer on it. Now, the imposter literally appears to be you (!) and he or she can use this and other false documents, to access property records, sell your home, or use your home’s equity to take out as many loans as possible against your property. (1,2) Then, one day out of the blue, you get a rude awakening when a lender suddenly tries to foreclose on your home for not keeping up with loan payments you knew nothing about!
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM HOME TITLE FRAUD
Homework – First and foremost, we must do our “homework” (every pun intended)! By that, I mean we must learn to be pro-active and vigilant about anything and everything having to do with home ownership. We must have our radar up and fully functioning, 24/7. Here are some suggestions from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) on how to do just that. (3)
- Treat your personal information as a valuable commodity. — Shred all documents that mention your bank accounts, credit cards, Social Security Number, or other important personal information. Be suspicious of any unsolicited phone calls, emails, texts or mail inquiring about your personal information. Guard your personal data like it was gold (because it is)!
- Check your credit reports throughout the year. – Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. So, every 3-4 months, check in with a different credit bureau to get a free credit report. The place to go to obtain your free credit reports is https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Once you get a credit report, check for any inquiries or accounts that you did not authorize. That way you’ll know right away if any funny business is going on!
- Regularly check your statements from your bank accounts and credit cards. Take note of any unexplained or unfamiliar accounts, charges, or withdrawals. Be aware of the dates that bills are due. If bills fail to arrive on time, contact your creditors to follow up. Take note if debt collectors call trying to obtain payment for bills that are not yours. If specific bills suddenly stop arriving, it could be a tip-off that you are a victim of identity theft – meaning that scammers may have changed the address on your credit cards or bank accounts. Smart Tip — Set up “automatic alerts” on each of your accounts so that you are notified every time any transaction is made.
- Contact your local recorder of deeds – It’s a good idea to check in periodically with your local recorder of deeds. Be on guard for any deeds that you or your legal representative did not prepare or sign. Also, make sure the recorder of deeds has your current address. Check to see if your county provides consumer notification services whenever a document is recorded on your property. If so, consider signing up for it.
WHERE TO REPORT SCAMS
If you believe you have been the target or victim of a of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. Contact the Contractors State Licensing Board for scams related to home repairs at 800-321-2752. If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080. If you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, you may also report it to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
STOP SENIOR SCAMS ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE
Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two of our most recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud, and Merlin with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=186s.
Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com.