Q: Hi Pat. Thanks for your Sunday MarketWise questions and answers. So, here’s one. Recently I heard a commercial regarding protection against having some unscrupulous people steal one’s homeownership deed. They claim something to the extent if you don’t have their service, you might put yourself in danger of having your deed being somehow overtaken. The idea being that having loans made against it, then leaving one with having to pay back the loans because their property was used as collateral. So you can’t pay the loans back, and you lose your property. The company even tells one to go on their website and enter their address to see if you’re on the list. If any of this is true, doesn’t title insurance cover your property?
A: The business model of these entrepreneurs is capitalizing on the “business practice” of fraudsters who engage in “house stealing.” According to the experts, post-policy fraud and forgery is mainly a civil and criminal matter. Criminals who assume the identity of the property owners, realty agents and escrow officers have always been on the FBI’s radar. In Silicon Valley, the following is posted online in bright red: “As of Monday, 11/5/2018, the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder’s Office will no longer offer an online search of the Official Record Index. Real estate records for Santa Clara County since 1850 are available after they have been recorded. These records will only be available for purchase in person or by mail. This affords greater privacy protections to all individuals whose information appears in the database, and furthers use of the index only for lawful and appropriate purposes.”
The Great Recession proved to be a breeding ground for these lawbreakers. Vacant properties peppered the American landscape. To make matters worse, those who lost their homes due to foreclosure were competing in a hot rental housing market. Many were fleeced out of cash by criminals renting properties they did not own or manage. Distressed owners are another target of fraudsters. Check with your county recorder’s office to see how you can save $15 a month to make sure no one has placed loans on your property. To assist the older adults in your life, visit the FBI’s Fraud Against Seniors webpage.
Realtor Pat Kapowich is a career-long consumer protection advocate and Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager. Contact him at 408-245-7700, [email protected] DRE# 00979413 SiliconValleyBroker.com YouTube.com/PatKapowich