It’s a tell-tale sign of title fraud if you suddenly stop receiving your tax bill, or utility bills. This might be the first sign to a homeowner that something is wrong. A lawyer, mortgage broker, or another person in the real estate industry, may be involved in the fraud, or may have unknowingly participated in the scheme.
Properties which are targeted for title fraud are, typically, owned by a single person rather than a couple, are mortgage free, are situated in higher-value neighbourhoods, and may be rented out to tenants.
Title fraud is a kind of identity theft. A fraudster will forge a homeowner’s identity, providing forged financial information and personal identification to a lender or mortgage broker, and retain a lawyer to register a new mortgage on the property. Once the new mortgage is registered, the fraudster walks away with the mortgage proceeds and the unsuspecting homeowner is left with the mortgage debt to pay off.
Restoring title to your property is no easy matter, and involves considerable legal fees and other costs. In the case of an improperly registered mortgage, the victim must prove that they were the victim of a fraud.
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The next Bank of Canada interest rate meeting is September 8 ,2010.
Some of the contributing factors to title fraud include widespread competition in the mortgage industry, combined with pressure to close deals quickly. Mortgage fraud is easier to perpetuate than in the past because of technological advances and the fact that, in some cases at least, neither brokers nor lawyers know their clients particularly well.
Because of the increase in claims related to fraud, title insurance companies have become more vigilant in flagging deals that appear suspect. If someone is putting on a new mortgage on a property and retaining all the cash from the mortgage advance, I would certainly wonder why they needed a mortgage in the first place.
What can you do to protect yourself? I don’t think title insurance is a panacea for title issues. However, it’s one of the few ways you can protect yourself from title fraud. Even if you own a property that was purchased before title insurance was available, you can buy an existing homeowner policy through a lawyer’s office which includes protection against fraud.
This blog is intended as general information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal advice, please speak to a lawyer.
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