What is deed fraud and how does it happen?

You’ve lived in your New York home for years, so it would be hard for a criminal to steal your deed, right? Not so fast. Identity thieves and unscrupulous real estate developers have devised many different scams to obtain properties and sell them for high profits illegally. The practice is more common than you think.

How deed fraud occurs

Deed fraud, also called title theft, can occur in many different forms. It is most common in high-worth real estate in states like New York. The practice occurs in several forms. These include:

  • Offering a “refinancing” deal, usually to senior citizens or homeowners in distress, where the home is listed as sold, transferring the title to the thief
  • Refinancing where the thief cashes out on the equity with the owner eventually facing foreclosure
  • Stealing a homeowner’s identity through missing utility bills or similar means and then opening home equity lines of credit and not making payments or forging an identity on a deed and selling the home without the owner’s knowledge

What to do if you are a victim of deed fraud

New York Attorney Leticia James has created a dedicated complaint process for those who may be victims of real estate deed fraud. Additionally, you should contact the companies where the real estate fraud occurred, place an alert with creditors, pull your credit report and file identity theft reports to the Federal Trade Commission and your local police.

Filing these complaints and reports is a precise process. You may also have to deal with additional difficulties regarding your property if it has been fraudulently sold without your knowledge. Working with an experienced real estate lawyer may help you resolve these problems and have your property returned to you.