The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Apr. 12, 2024

Guest column: beware of scam

Your home is one of the most important financial – and emotional – investments you’ll make. It provides shelter, security, and a sense of stability. Now, thanks to the creativity of fraudsters, it also comes with the risk of a relatively new type of scam called deed or mortgage fraud. Scammers are forging deeds to homes and then taking out home equity loans, putting homeowners at risk.

Lane Montz

This scam is on the rise. According to the FBI, deed fraud and mortgage fraud are among the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in the United States. Fraudulent transfers of property can be devastating to homeowners, causing them to lose their homes, their credit ratings, and their peace of mind.

Here’s how it works: a fraudster will scour public records on the internet for your signature, digitally copy it, and forge a fake deed transferring ownership of your home to themselves or an accomplice. Then they take out a home equity loan using your home as collateral. This can potentially leave you on the hook for the loan and fixing the situation can be a legal nightmare. In some cases, homeowners may not even be aware the scam has occurred until they receive a notice of default or foreclosure from their lender.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to safeguard your property:

  1. Keep a close eye on your home’s title and deed. You can obtain a copy of your deed from your local county recorder’s office.
  2. Be wary of unsolicited offers to purchase or refinance your home, especially high-pressure ones.
  3. Protect your personal information. Shred all documents that contain sensitive information, such as your Social Security number or bank account details. Don’t share this information with anyone unless you are certain that they are trustworthy.

You might wonder if the title insurance you paid for at closing protects you. The short answer is probably not. Title insurance typically only protects against title problems prior to closing. Most deed fraud occurs later. However, some title insurers are now offering supplemental insurance to help with deed fraud, but coverage and offerings are spotty. The best course of action is to call your title carrier and get legal advice.

Finally, if you do receive a notice of default or foreclosure, act quickly. Time is of the essence and a swift response can make all the difference in protecting your home and your financial future.

If you believe that you have been a victim of this or any other scam, it’s important to report it immediately. Contact your local law enforcement agency and the FTC to file a complaint. Remember, by being vigilant and proactive, you can help protect yourself and your home from this and other types of scams.

Lane Montz
President and CEO
Toledo Better Business Bureau

POSTED: 04/17/23 at 10:21 am. FILED UNDER: Opinions