Is this kind of fraud even possible? Do we need this service? I’m sure others have received this message. Any information would be appreciated. thank you.
A: There are many businesses trying to make money offering services that you may or may not need. Be vigilant when reviewing these offers as many of them may be scams themselves. You certainly don’t want to give out any personal information to any company or person without understanding what you’re getting into and verifying the company personally.
Sometimes companies send letters to homes that offer services that a homeowner can get free of government services. In some states, you are entitled to a deduction for your home’s real estate taxes if you live in the home as your primary residence. In most cases, you simply fill out a form with the tax authority to get the discount. However, some companies monitor homeowners’ tax bills and send homeowners a letter stating that they offer services to get a tax deduction for a fee.
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In other jurisdictions, the office that oversees the recording or filing of real estate documents may provide a service that notifies homeowners if a deed transferring ownership of the home has been recorded or recorded. Ask if your local notary or other recording office offers that service to homeowners. If they do, you can simply subscribe to their automated system, which will send you information if something changes on your topic. And, yes, there are companies that offer this service for a fee, although you can get the same information for free.
You asked if this was even a “thing”. Yes it is cheating and it happens. Some homeowners have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity in the blink of an eye.
Here’s a brief overview of how to transfer ownership of a home from seller to buyer. A seller prepares a deed that describes the seller’s ownership interest to a buyer, and then the deed is filed or registered with the land records office where the home is located. It’s very simple. (Some places may use a proprietary registration system and the process of submitting documents may require some additional steps.)
If someone steals your name, they will have to create a document that claims to be you and falsify the transfer documents and sign them for themselves. Then you try to get a loan against equity (from a cash out or home equity loan or line of credit) and get rid of the equity right away.
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If you live in a home you own, you may not need any title protection services. From what we can gather online, these services handle any documents that may be registered on your home’s title. These services claim to help you if someone records something against your home title that they shouldn’t have done. But their service may come with a fee of around $20 per month. That is not a small amount.
Frankly, if you’re concerned about your credit and your home equity, you’re probably better off checking your credit with the credit reporting bureaus. Once you do this, the scammer will have trouble trying to get credit or a mortgage using your name.
Sam has encountered situations where a fraudster used forged documents to transfer ownership of the house from the rightful owner to the fraudster. The fraudster then sold the house in their own name. However, this is difficult to do when you live in your own home. When you live in your own home, buyers want to view the home or lenders want to view the home for mortgage purposes. As such, it is unlikely that a scam artist will attempt to do so when you can see people coming to your home.
Over the years, we’ve seen companies offer insurance that protects the value of your home. If the value goes down and you sell, they will pay you the difference. Other companies offer a method of “locking” your home’s title to protect you. You also have warranty companies that service and replace appliances and furniture in your home if they break. If you can get all these services, you will be spending thousands of dollars every year.
Our advice is to be proactive, and know that you can go online and look up any changes to your home’s title. Monitor the online system every two months if you can. Next, check your credit with the three major credit bureaus and you’ll be a great way to protect your single’s great fortune — while saving yourself some money along the way.
If our readers have had any positive experiences with these title service companies when a fraudster filed against you, please let us know how things turned out. We will share the information in the next column.
Ellis Glink is the author of “100 questions every first time home buyer should ask” (Fourth Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers offer to employees to measure and reduce financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Find them through their website, BestMoneyMoves.com.