Scammers threatening home owners

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Savvy thieves are now becoming smarter than ever when it comes to hacking and stealing a person’s identity.

The latest trend in scams is threatening people’s identity and their homes and land. But Lunenburg County not following modern treads may help to keep owners safe.

“It is a simple matter to obtain an old deed and copy it and fake a signature,” said Lunenburg County Clerk of the Circuit Court Gordan Erby. “The nice thing about Lunenburg is that we go through the deeds three times before we file them. Yes, it is the old fashion way, but we feel it is part of our responsibility to protect the public as best we can.”

Erby said that many cities and counties are fast moving into a system referred to as e-filing allowing the documents to be transmitted thru the internet and recorded automatically; however, Lunenburg is not one of those counties as Erby said it is a system that invites fraud.

“We do not participate in this, and as long as the good people of Lunenburg see fit to have me as a clerk, I will not participate in such an operation that only invites fraud,” Erby said.

In his years as clerk, Erby said he recalls only one occasion in which someone tried to commit land fraud.

“A young fella came in and copied approximately ten deeds, redid them, and filed them under the signature of his stepmother,” Erby said.” Fortunately for the stepmother, we recognized the fraud and reported it to the federal authorities.”

Though Lunenburg does not take part in e-filing, individuals can still access real estate records electronically but that is something Ebry said he cannot control.

“We are having more and more companies outside the US paying for connections to our system,” he said. “The clerks have no choice in this matter and are following guidelines of the general assemblies and governors of the past.”

In 2017, the FBI reported over 9,600 real estate and rental fraud victims with over $56 million losses. This number grew to almost 12,000 victims in just two years, with losses totaling over $220 million.

According to the FBI, thieves are able to forge documents, commit fraud, and steal the title/deed to your home, potentially to sell the property to someone else and reap the proceeds, or use their fraudulent ownership to access a lending tool and extract the home’s equity.

According to LifeLock, an identity theft monitoring company, home title fraud occurs when a scammer changes ownership of your home to another name by forging your name on a deed, filing it in the records room of your county courthouse, then takes out a loan using the home as collateral.

There are several ways home and landowners can outsmart thieves.

1. Monitor your credit reports

Federal law provides you with the right to have a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Monitoring your credit report can help you discover financial actions taken by others in your name.

2. Check the status of your deed

You should regularly check on the status of your deed to confirm that no one has done anything affecting your property ownership.

Consider buying an owner’s title insurance policy.

Owner’s title insurance can offer significant protection from the harm caused by deed fraud and can cover the costs involved in correcting the problem.

Beginning this week and continuing each month The K-V Dispatch will publish land transfers in an effort to help reduce fraud.