The scheme typically involves a number of shady individuals who scour public records for properties that do not have a mortgage registered and may be listed for rent. Imposters, using stolen identification, pose as tenants in order to rent the home. From there, other imposters use the stolen identities of the homeowners to either mortgage the home or sell it.
If a home is sold, it is sold quickly and, according to CBC investigations, the money received from the sale is moved through fraudulent bank accounts and then out of the country in the form of cryptocurrency or gold bullion. The same is true for fraudulent mortgage money.
Imagine receiving a monthly mortgage statement in the mail for a home for which you had no mortgage, or learning that your home has been sold without your knowledge! Victims of title fraud lose the right to mortgage their own home or sell the home until they re-establish their title rights through the courts, which can be a lengthy and costly process.
“Title” is known as legal ownership of a property. Title insurance can help protect homeowners from fraudulent claims on their property and typically covers legal fees that would be required to restore the true homeowner’s legal title. Title insurance also protects buyers who unwittingly purchase a home that has been fraudulently sold to them. In this scenario, although the buyers would not be entitled to the property, they should get their money back.
As Realtors® it boggles our minds how these criminal schemes happen. It is certainly brazen.
On a personal note, my daughter narrowly escaped a fraud scheme when she found a flat to lease in London, UK. An imposter, posing as the owner of the Air BnB flat, attempted to lease it using forged identification, utility bills and passports! The forged documents looked real except for one minor flaw that was noticed by my daughter’s UK boyfriend and was reported to authorities. This can be a very quick and lucrative scheme as the fraudsters bank first and last month’s rent from the unsuspecting tenant, leave the Air BNB and move on to their next target. The owner of the Air BNB and the duped tenant know nothing of the scheme until the tenant shows up to occupy the unit which is unavailable for rent. The tenant is out of pocket for quite a sum of money, may have insufficient cash to cover the deposit on a replacement rental, and could have nowhere to live.
We are not experts on any of the above, and can only advise our BLOG readers to be vigilant in protecting their identities; to talk to their real estate lawyers about title insurance and be cautious as landlords or as tenants.
Please feel free to reach out to us any time if you think that we can assist you in any way with your real estate goals.