As if it’s not enough for identity thieves to steal money from your checking account or rack up bills on your credit card – now they want your house too. In one case I just heard about, a husband and wife got documents in the mail that led them to discover that someone was trying to steal their home.
Frighteningly enough, this happens all the time. The FBI calls the act “house stealing” – which is basically a combination of mortgage fraud and identity theft. According to them, this is how house stealing happens. The thief picks a house to steal and steals that homeowner’s identity, making fake social security cards, drivers’ licenses, or other forms of identification. They then go to a regular office supply store and buy forms to transfer property. They forge the homeowner’s signature on those documents and file them with the appropriate governmental office – usually the county recorder’s office. Once those papers are filed, the house deed transfers to the criminal and the home belongs to them. They can sell it for a hefty profit.
Like most kinds of identity theft, you can’t really prevent it but the FBI does offer some tips which we’ve listed below.
1. If you receive a payment book or information from a mortgage company that’s not yours, whether your name is on the envelope or not, don’t just throw it away. Open it, figure out what it says, and follow up with the company that sent it.
2. From time to time, it’s also a good idea to check all information pertaining to your house through your county’s recorder’s office. If you see any paperwork you don’t recognize or any signature that is not yours, look into it.