The Truth About Home Title Theft

Legal Article

The Truth About Home Title Theft

Home title theft is a broad term that covers many of the most common real estate scams including forged deeds or mortgages. The increase in property title theft is caused by the worldwide rise in identity theft. While property title theft was almost unheard of merely two decades ago, the FBI has identified it as one of the most popular real estate scams in major American cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia.

Your home’s title and mortgage information will be stored online. Thus, if a thief is able to access your information, they will be able to quickly forge your paperwork and then head to the local county recorder’s office to “update” the paperwork. Further, as many offices allow paperwork to be digitally transmitted, a thief can take control of your property without ever leaving their keyboard. To make matters worse, there is no way county recorder’s offices can consistently authenticate the paperwork that is being submitted.

If a thief is able to steal your identity, they will be able to take out massive loans using your property’s equity and you will not know until you get late payment notices.

How to Protect Yourself from Mistaken, Fraudulent, or Otherwise Illegitimate Filings

There are over 50 million documents recorded per year in the United States alone. While a scammer can get hold of your property information from a deed or mortgage document, they can also get sensitive information from other documents you fill out. Thus, by simply recording a document, you may encounter major consequences to your home value or property ownership.

Deeds are some of the most common documents buyers, sellers, and owners of real estate will fill out. Further, the most common types of deeds are:

  • Grant Deed/ Warranty Deed
  • Quitclaim Deed
  • Joint Tenancy Deed

Whether or not you have utilized one of these property deeds recently, the easiest way to ensure that no one has stolen or will steal your property title is to hire a real estate attorney to review your home title. With over twenty years of experience and attorney licensed in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and New York, the attorneys at Antonoplos & Associates are here to ensure that no one has stolen your property title while also having the experience to represent you if your property title has been stolen.

Grant Deed/ Warranty Deed

A Grant or Warranty Deed is used in certain states to sell or transfer real property from one person or entity to another. This deed must be signed and notarized by both parties.

Common Scam

Concerning Grant and Warranty Deeds, thieves commonly forge and records this type of deed making them the new owner of the property. Once they own the property, they will take out a large loan on the home and not make payments on the loan, sending your property into foreclosure. A Washington, D.C. real estate attorney will see and notify you if the name on a deed has been changed—notifying you before the loan is obtained and representing you in litigation if you must prove that you did not sign the documents.

Quitclaim Deed

A Quitclaim Deed passes any title, claim, or interest that the grantor has in the property to another person.

Common Scam

A scammer may forge a Quitclaim Deed, making the thieve the new owner of the property. After officially owning the property, the thieve would then sell or borrow against the property. Similar to a Grant or Warranty Deed, a real estate attorney will be able to tell if someone has submitted a Quitclaim Deed and help prevent the sale of or borrowing against the property.

Joint Tenancy Deed

The holding of an estate or property jointly by two or more parties, the share of each passing to the other or others upon death.

Common Scam

A caretaker, family member, friend, or other individuals could legally change the deed adding themselves as a Joint Tenancy. After the current owner of the home passes away, the thieve would file an Affidavit of Death of Joint Tenant making them the sole owner of the home. In this scenario, an attorney would have to review your loved one’s property title and help you reclaim your share of the home.

Final Thoughts

Consulting a real estate attorney is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that no one steals your property title. Not only can an attorney review your property title and to see if someone has taken out a mortgage or created a deed, but an attorney will also be able to sort out the situation and help resolve any issues you may be having as quickly and effectively as possible.

Contact Our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information on the truth about home title theft, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding real estate law, check out our blog.