Real Estate fraud is taken seriously by the banking industry, police, and other organizations involved in real estate transactions. There are different types of real estate fraud but the main two that consumers should be aware of are mortgage fraud and title fraud.
Mortgage fraud happens when a person intentionally gives inaccurate, fraudulent information to a lender in order to obtain a mortgage that they would not otherwise qualify for. This could include anything such as a falsified appraisal of the property, altered proof of identification to claiming to have a higher income.
Title fraud occurs when a fraudster assumes the identity of an individual homeowner and then uses that false identity to pose as the homeowner. They could then assume the title on the home, sell the property or obtain a mortgage on that property or other properties in the homeowner’s name.
Learn ways to protect your personal information from identity theft.
· Do not give out personal information on the phone, through mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know with whom you're dealing.
· If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is - before you reveal any personal information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared.
· Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time.
· Guard your mail. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. Ensure mail is forwarded or re-routed if you move or change your mailing address.
· Minimize the identification information and number of cards you carry.
· Keep items with personal information in a safe place. An identity thief will pick through your garbage or recycling bins. Be sure to tear or shred receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements and credit offers you get in the mail.
· Give your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Social Security Number (SSN) only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identification when possible.
· Don't carry your SIN or SSN card; leave it in a secure place.
· Check your credit report regularly to ensure there are no discrepancies
· Reviewing your credit report can help you find out if someone has opened unauthorized financial accounts in your name. You can request free copies of your credit report from credit reporting agencies by mail.
· You can also conduct a property search at your province land registry office to ensure that the title to your home is in your name.
Other common schemes include:
· Two Sets of Settlement Statements: One settlement statement is prepared and provided to the seller accurately reflecting the true selling price of the property. A second fraudulent statement is given to the lender showing a highly inflated purported selling price. The lender provides a loan in excess of the property value, and after the loans are settled, the proceeds are divided among the conspirators.
· “Property Flipping”: A buyer pays a low price for property, then resells it quickly for a much higher price. While this may be legal, when it involves false statements to the lender, it is not.
If you believe you are a victim of real estate fraud please contact your local Sheriff, Police or District Attorney’s Office.