Two Canadian homeowners recently faced their worst nightmares after scammers managed to obtain the titles to their properties and use fake IDs and forged signatures to steal the ownership.
The brazen home title fraud, although occuring in Ontario, has sparked the Better Business Bureau serving mainland B.C. to issue a warning of caution to local residents.
“Title fraud has been a threat to the Canadian real estate industry and is a potential risk for every property,” says president and CEO Simone Lis.
“The best thing you can do is take proper precautions to avoid falling into this scam, and know what to do if it happens to you.”
The Better Business Bureau has offered up five tips to avoid becoming a victim:
1. Consider purchasing title insurance, which can act as the “only saving grace” if fraudstrers strike, the BBB said. Because the fraudulent title is not legally binding, the new buyer can’t resell the propery and recoup their funds. Meanwhile, insurance companies will often investigate the suspected fraud and help the homeowner find a lawyer.
2. Safeguarding personal information – including shredding documents with personal information such as bank account numbers – is important, BBB says. It’s also wise to be suspicious of unprompted calls asking for personal information. Driver’s licences should be kept safe and protected.
3. It’s advised to check credit reports regularly to spot unauthorized inquiries.
4. Reviewing bank account activity should also include credit cards, BBB says. Sometimes, scammers will change the addresses associated with a bank account. If bills don’t arrive on time, or at all, its advised to call creditor’s for follow-up. Another red flag is debt collectors contacting you about debts that are not yours.
5. If it’s believed a scammer has used someone’s identity, place a “freeze” on the credit card and bank accounts immediately, and report to subsequent fraud departments.