Imagine the American dream crumbling around you. Each mortgage payment you made over the years, each bedroom and each bath, the backyard you nurtured into a blooming oasis – gone. Not to fire, flood, or some cosmic twist of fate, but to a digital heist so insidious you might not even notice until the eviction paperwork arrives nailed to your door.
This is the chilling reality of home title theft, a silent, serpentine scam that takes advantage of public records, siphoning off your equity and leaving you with nothing but a sinking feeling in your gut.
The scenario is alarmingly feasible.
Scammers, armed with snippets of your personal information like social security numbers or addresses, weave a tapestry of deceit. They forge your signature on a false deed, create fabricated identities using stolen Social Security numbers, and bingo! Your home, once a beacon of security, becomes a pawn in their twisted financial chess game. With the deed now in their name, they become phantom homeowners, strolling into banks and refinancing your mortgage.
This scam is so good that they can pull this off while you are still living in the house! No one at the courthouse ever checks the validity of the new warranty deed.
The scammer converts your equity into their currency while you remain blissfully unaware, lulled into a false sense of ownership by the roof over your head.
The loan balance, of course, is secured by the house. Unaware of the fraudulent transfer, lenders come knocking, demanding their monthly payments from the rightful owner – you.
Foreclosure looms, a monstrous shadow over your stolen home. You scramble, bewildered, while the scammer has now vanished with your equity, leaving you holding an empty mortgage bag and a gnawing question: how could this happen?
The answer lies in the very system meant to protect your property – the public record of deeds and titles. Everything in the county records room relies on a handwritten signature and the seal of a notary public. This system is almost unchanged from the first written forms of real estate transfer in the days of Robin Hood and King Richard the Lionheart!
The key to beating this scam is to find out about it before the scammers have time to borrow against your house. Typically, a borrower needs at least 30 days to get a loan closed. If you can discover the fraud before the closing occurs you can beat the scam.
Now there is a simple solution. It’s called FANS, short for Filing Activity Notification Services. These programs, offered by most county clerks in Georgia, are the digital watchdogs overlooking your property. They send you an instant email or text alert whenever any activity, like a deed change or refinance, is recorded against your title.
Once you are notified, the scam falls apart. You call the clerk’s office, they give you a copy of the fraudulent deed, and you call the police. You file an affidavit of title, and your home is safe.
Remember, your home is more than just an address; it’s a legacy, a piece of your story. Don't let it become the vanishing act in someone else's con game. Stay informed about filing activity, and never worry again about home title theft.
Also, do not ever pay for an outside service to monitor your home title. Let your local clerk of court notify you for free!
Atlanta native John Adams has been a real estate broker and investor in residential real estate for the past four decades.