ID Thieft hits home

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Atlanta Home Connections

A growing number of crooks who steal your identity don't swipe your personal information to pilfer from your financial accounts. They want to get their hands on your home and snatch it right out from under you.
      Modern day malefactors are mindful of the fact that while you may have quite a stash to swipe from your savings, credit and investment accounts, chances are your home is your most valuable asset. You can, however, protect your home from a heist by taking measured preventative steps.

Here's the basic house stealing scam:

  • A grifter chooses a house and assumes the identity of the homeowner, often using the Internet to obtain personal information. The information is used to create fake identification papers.
  • The culprit then transfers the deed into his or her name using forged documents, signatures and fake identification, but by filing the paperwork with the proper authorities. Now they "own" the home.
  • In one variation, the house thief steals the home and then sells it to pocket the profits -- even if someone still lives there. In another variation, crooks prey on homeowners in financial trouble. They promise to refinance the mortgage, but instead "buy" the home using fake identities.
          Sai Huda, CEO of San Diego, CA-based Compliance Coach recently deployed CompliancePal the first-of-its kind software clients use to meet federal requirements to weed out ID theft "red flags" -- indicators that identity filching could be afoot.
          Huda said the software has found other variations on the house stealing scheme including a team posing as both the owner selling the property and the buyer making the purchase. The real homeowner is left in the lurch. He developed the software to help federally regulated institutions comply with the so-called "Red Flag" provision of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA). Fully effective in November this year, the provision requires that financial institutions, creditors and others who handle your personal identifying documents develop and deploy an ID theft prevention program.
          The federal provision comes with more than two dozen red flags regulated companies must heed.
          "If businesses fail to comply it's not only civil monetary penalties, it's also violations of federal and state unfair and deceptive acts laws. It's a serious risk for Realtors, mortgage brokers, lenders and others who don't comply," Huda said.
    But Huda's software has found nearly as many additional red flags beyond the federal regulations and he says that indicates consumers also have their work cut out for them. "Consumers need to ask, 'Who am I doing business with? What are they doing to protect me? What am I doing to protect myself?' " he added.
          To prevent someone from stealing your home, take conventional ID-theft prevention measures with a focus on protecting your home's ownership.
  • Review your credit report frequently. You can do so three times a year for free at the one and only federally-sanctioned by getting one report, in turn, every four months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Avoid sound-alike services.
          "Just as you keep tabs on your credit report, keep a watch once or twice a year on your home's title records," says Huda. You don't need to hire a title company for a title search, but it's a smart move to visit your county recorder or other public recording agency to check your title for lien changes or additions, requests for information or other anomalies.
  • Invest in a confetti shredder to destroy identifying documents before tossing them. Better yet, rub out the paper trail and move financial transactions online. Conduct as much digital banking as possible. The online account gives you 24 hour access to inspect your accounts as often as you wish.
  • When you are away, put a stop on all mail and deliveries rather than have someone pick them up.
  • Use a safe or safety deposit box for any important documents paperwork you must retain.
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    Randall Schrader
    Competitive Insurance of Dundee - Dundee, FL

    This is a big problem in South Floria too.  Great post and why this is so easy is unbelievable.  One guy down our way closed 4 re-fis on someone elses house.  2 mortgage offices sent his loans to the same lender and the feds nabbed him.  POW!

    Jun 03, 2008 05:14 AM #1
    Collette Lee
    Tower Realty - Riverside, CA

    Thank you so much for the information, I will definetly let my clients know that this is happening..

    Jun 03, 2008 05:17 AM #2
    IMNJ - Internet Marketing Specialist
    Internet Marketing NJ - Red Bank, NJ

    That is unbelievable. I cannot image the pain the victims are going through the rectify the issue.

    Jun 03, 2008 05:24 AM #3
    Dave Woodson
    Dave Woodson - Chesterton, IN
    Not the Average Agent

    thanks for the great information.  I will incorporate some of this material into my id theft presentation

    Jun 03, 2008 05:28 AM #4
    Virginia Lee
    Atlanta Home Connections - Buford, GA
    R.E.Broker, Buford,Braselton,Flowery Branch Georgia

    This has actually been a problem for a while. It is just getting more attention because the feds are finally paying attention to the lending practices with all the foreclosures. I was involved with a client that wanted to purchase a home several years ago and when the lender ran her credit she had 5 mortgages she didn't know about. Get this the mortgages were paid monthly on time. As a matter of fact the crook flipped one of the homes in another name and that's how they caught him. Scary isn't it??? Thanks you guys for your comments spread the word... :)

    Jun 03, 2008 05:47 AM #5
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    Virginia Lee

    R.E.Broker, Buford,Braselton,Flowery Branch Georgia
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