You are probably familiar with the idea of identity theft and know you should check your credit report periodically to see if anyone is wrongfully obtaining credit in your name. But did you know that people can take advantage of the equity in your home?
If you own your home or other real estate, there is a deed recorded in the Recorder of Deeds (“ROD”) office in the county in which your property is located. People can check the ROD’s records to see if you have mortgages, judgments, or liens against your property and how long ago the debt was incurred. If your mortgage was filed 20 years ago, with a typical 30 year home mortgage, it is likely you have substantial equity in the property by this point. This makes it a target for someone to fraudulently sign and record a deed to transfer the property into their name or to add their name to the deed. In the former situation, the defrauder then obtains a mortgage and takes cash out based on your equity. In the later instance, they wait until an elderly owner passes away and then sell or refinance the property and take cash out.
The ROD’s information is available to the public and in many counties can be accessed on-line through the internet. Both the Bucks County and Montgomery County ROD’s offices have services to alert property owners of activity affecting title to their properties. If someone files a deed, mortgage, judgment or other record against your property, you will be alerted. You can then make an immediate inquiry and start taking action if something inappropriate was recorded. These two services are offered at no charge. Other counties may have similar programs. Just check their websites. There are similar commercial services being advertised which charge a fee to monitor your title.
Should you ever find yourself the victim of this type of fraud, first contact your local police department since this is a crime. Contact us if you need assistance in your efforts to restore your title.