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Posted on October 29, 2020 by in Credit Fraud & Monitoring, Identity & Privacy, Personal

Sarah in Massachusetts decided to replace a sagging, aged roof. Needing funds to pay for the repair, she turned to a home equity loan as millions of Americans do each year. She had no idea that seemingly mundane choice would turn into a months-long odyssey of paperwork, including a risk that she’d lose her house.

In applying for her loan, she discovered that an identity thief had not only taken out a home equity loan on her property already but also had a second mortgage application in process. As it turns out, her buckling roof wasn’t the only danger to her home.

Although Sarah was able to eventually resolve the new account opening fraud by turning to IdentityForce for help restoring her good name and putting identity and credit monitoring in place to reduce the risk of future fraud, the damage could have been devastating. People can be diligent about checking bank statements monthly, but who worries about “house stealing”?

Mortgaging Your Good Name

Mortgage fraud through identity theft is a very real risk. A thief can steal your Social Security number and other identifying details, then pretend to be you to a bank or mortgage broker. The criminal might refinance your home for more than what’s owed and then take the extra cash or obtain a home equity line of credit and drain that account.

In some cases, you can experience house stealing through a fraudulent deed transfer. An identity thief could use stolen information to execute a transfer, which would put your property in his or her name. That means you’d legally no longer own that real estate. Since the criminal’s name is on the deed, he or she would have the right to take out loans against the house. With no payments made on those loans or the mortgage, the property could even go into foreclosure.

Thieves can get the information they need for these transactions by stealing your mail, getting personal details through fraudulent phone calls, or making copies of your driver’s license to impersonate you. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s friends and family who are the culprits (known as familiar fraud) since they may have access to files inside a home and often know many of the personal details required to impersonate you.

Protect Yourself, and Your House, From Identity Thieves

Although house stealing isn’t as prevalent as credit card fraud, there are numerous ways that identity theft can impact your financial wellbeing. You must protect yourself and your family from the impact of identity crimes, including account takeover fraud, criminal identity theft, medical identity theft, tax identity theft, and child identity theft. And, as the owner of a house, condo, or vacation home, you need to stay vigilant to make sure your property is protected from identity thieves as well. Here are some tactics to keep in mind:

  • Secure your files. Financial records are still vulnerable if they’re sitting in your drawer at home. Friends, family members, contractors, and visitors could go snooping. That’s why it’s crucial to lock up your papers, so they’re safe.
  • Don’t give out information over the phone. Caller ID spoofing scams, also called vishing (voice phishing) scams, have become very sophisticated. Callers manage to persuade people that it’s a legitimate information request or that money is owed for taxes or bank fees.
  • Monitor your credit report. At least twice a year — and more often if you’ve been an identity theft victim — look carefully through your credit report to identify any discrepancies or credit inquiries that you don’t recognize. If several mortgage companies are looking at your file, for example, that may signal someone is trying to obtain a home equity loan in your name.

If you want to keep your personal information and credit monitored and protected 24/7, so you aren’t surprised like Sarah was, consider the best identity theft protection from IdentityForce. IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit identity theft protection plans for individuals and families provide proactive alerts, robust credit monitoring and dark web monitoring, giving you the ultimate layered protection against fraud and scams, plus identity recovery services from our Certified Protection Experts if the worst were to happen. Protect what matters most and start your 30-day free trial of IdentityForce today!

**Originally published June 7, 2016. Updated October 29, 2020.**