Is your home title already stolen? How to Find out!
Norris Fisher sold $4 million worth of property during his career…
But, none of the sales he made were legal.
He stole people’s property out from underneath them using forged documents and fake credentials.
Here’s an example of the type of crimes Norris and his criminal friends commit:
One day, John S. of Fort Worth, TX found out his vacant home lot had been sold to a woman in Los Angeles.
But, the transfer of the property involved a forged deed. John’s name and the notary’s seal were both fakes.
Norris Fisher used a fake deed as proof that he owned the property, then he turned around and sold the property for cash.
Anyone who did a title search would believe that all the paperwork for the sale was in order.
To hide his identity, Norris conducted the transactions through a P.O. Box, and targeted vacant lots to sell.
To avoid being caught, he focused mostly on properties owned by someone who recently died.
In one instance, a caseworker at the Department of Aging found out one of her clients sold a property.
The caseworker was suspicious and learned the notary’s signature and stamp were fake.
When police executed a search warrant at Norris’s home, they found seven fake notary stamps.
And an undercover police officer purchased stolen property from Norris.
In total, U.S. Postal Inspectors believe Norris used the mail service to steal more than 100 properties worth over $4 million.
Facing a mountain of evidence against him, Norris pled guilty to four counts of mail fraud and conspiracy and received a 20-year prison sentence.
Unfortunately, some of the victims didn’t have the money to hire lawyers and get back their property.
It was a massive headache for the victims who were sellers and buyers.
Now, home title theft is nothing new…
How to know if your home title deed is stolen
The problem is if someone steals the title to your property it might be a while before you know.
The thief could sell, refinance, or let the property go into foreclosure.
But today, as identity theft increases, so do home title crimes.
According to the FBI, victims lost over $56 million in 2017 due to real estate fraud.
So, how do you protect yourself from a fraud that you may not know occurred?
Here are a few things to help protect yourself from losing your home to a thief.
Check property records:
If you own property there is a record of ownership. This is usually compiled by the county recorder where you live.
Many county websites allow you to do a property search. Or you can go in person to the county offices.
Either way, search your address to make sure the property is still in your name or the name it should be in.
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Pay attention to missing bills:
If you have a property in your name, you receive a bunch of junk mail.
Companies will send sales letters in the mail to the person who is the owner on record.
Plus, your current mortgage company should send you correspondence in the mail.
Even if you have paperless billing, you should still get important documents related to the property address.
If these notices stop appearing, check the property records to make sure you are still listed as the owner.
Consider title insurance:
When you buy a home, always buy title insurance.
Title insurance is a one-time fee often included with closing costs when you buy your home.
This protects against any claims or liens made against the property.
If a lien is discovered after you have purchased the property, this insurance could be a lifesaver.
These days, there are a lot of companies that offer to monitor your credit.
There are also companies such as Home Title Lock that offer to protect you from this type of fraud.
While there is nothing wrong with these companies, they do things that you can do on your own.
Remember to check your credit report, and follow these steps I’ve mentioned above.
There are plenty of ways to protect yourself from title fraud without paying someone else to do it.