Protecting Yourself Against Real Estate Fraud

Real estate fraud can be devastating. Property owners should know what to look for and how to protect themselves against becoming victims.

When buying or selling a home, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the process. Unfortunately, for some homeowners, the excitement turns to stress when they realize that they have become victims of real estate fraud.

In Alberta and across Canada, real estate fraud is a real concern. Given the potential for devastating consequences, education and prevention is key.

Identity Fraud Can Lead to Real Estate Fraud

Real estate fraud typically begins with identity theft which can happen easily and without the victim knowing. In cases of identity theft, the victim's personal information is stolen and used by someone pretending to be them. Often, fraudsters prey on victims by:

· Stealing their mail

· Posing as a legitimate business or website to obtain personal information

· Searching for personal information in an individual's garbage or recycling

· Stealing a person's wallet, purse, or computer

· Illegally accessing a computer or personal device

Once a fraudster has secured the necessary information, it becomes easier for them to commit title fraud or foreclosure fraud.

Types of Real Estate Fraud

In Canada, title fraud and foreclosure fraud are generally the types of real estate fraud that cause the most damage to victims.

Title fraud occurs when a fraudster uses a stolen identity to take over a property's title. Once the title has been secured, the perpetrator may then sell the property without the real owner knowing or obtain a new mortgage. Either situation is dangerous and can leave victims in a very difficult situation.

Foreclosure fraud preys on people who are having trouble making their mortgage payments. A fraudster will propose a solution to help the property owner with debt by offering them a loan in exchange for transferring the property's title. Once the transfer has taken place, the fraudster can sell the property or re-mortgage it, leaving with the money.

Protection Against Real Estate Fraud

When it comes to handling real estate matters, it is better to be safe than sorry. While diligence can go a long way, it is important to remember that fraudsters are often very good at what they do and even the most vigilant property owner may be at risk.

Protection against identity fraud is an important first step. Simple measures such as properly destroying any documents with personal information, monitoring credit scores, and exercising due diligence when it comes to offers by companies or individuals regarding real estate are important.

Taking proactive measures to prevent real estate fraud can make the difference between protection and significant loss. Title insurance and land title searches also can help, as can the right legal advice. Property owners should feel comfortable speaking with their real estate lawyer if they have questions or concerns and should always schedule a meeting before signing any documents related to their home.

Real estate fraud is serious but there are ways to prevent it. Knowing what to look for and having the right support can go a long way in ensuring peace of mind.