Real estate fraud

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Real estate fraud can cause you to have large financial losses. If you are a victim of real estate fraud you may find out that you no longer own your home or that there have been additional mortgages taken out in your name.

How real estate fraud happens

There are two main types of real estate fraud that may result in financial loss: 

  • title fraud
  • foreclosure fraud

Title fraud 

Title fraud happens when the title to your home is stolen, and then the fraudster sells the home or applies for a new mortgage against it. Title fraud usually starts with identity theft, which can happen if somebody steals your personal information.

Foreclosure fraud 

Foreclosure fraud usually happens when you are having problems making your mortgage payments. You may be tricked into transferring your property title to somebody to get a loan that will help you make your payments. Fraudsters usually keep the payments you make and also possess the title to your home, which they can resell or remortgage.

Prevent real estate fraud

To help protect yourself against real estate fraud, you can:

  • keep your mortgage information in a safe place and shred old documents rather than throwing them in the trash
  • contact your mortgage lender first if you are having difficulty making your mortgage payments
  • consult your lawyer before giving another person a right to deal with your home or other assets
  • research any company or individual who offers you a loan
  • do a land title search with your provincial or territorial land registry office, which will show the name of the property owner and any mortgages or liens registered on the title
  • consider buying title insurance to protect against title fraud, which will protect you from losses related to title fraud

What to do if you're a victim of real estate fraud

If you think you are a victim of real estate fraud:

  • write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications
  • file a report with your local police
  • contact your financial institutions and any other companies where you think accounts may be affected
  • contact your provincial or territorial land registry office
  • contact Canada’s two credit rating agencies, TransUnion and Equifax, and ask them to put a fraud alert on your file
  • contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

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