IndianaLocalNews

Mortgage scams can leave victims clueless, homeless

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A scam used to illegally obtain houses and land is silently targeting more unsuspecting victims in Indiana, and it often leaves people in need of legal help to regain their assets.
Deed theft or property fraud is the transfer of a home or land to someone else without the true owner’s permission. The scammer fills out a blank quit claim deed, has the document falsely certified and then, files the deed with a county clerk’s office, which records the sale.
Faith Kimbrough, recorder for Marion County, explained another tactic.
“Suppose a scammer files a bogus property deed, that looks like the actual property owner transferred the ownership to someone else. The con artist could then take the deed to a bank, obtain a fraudulent mortgage, and walk away with thousands of dollars,” Kimbrough pointed out.
The thief usually has an unsuspecting buyer lined up, rents the home or gets a home equity line of credit. Offers to help with refinancing or pay overdue taxes are other ways crooks operate.
The FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report showed nearly 12,000 individuals in the U.S. racked up real estate losses of $350 million due to fraud.
Too often, an owner does not realize their property has been stolen until it’s too late. Upon discovery, Kimbrough recommended victims contact her office immediately to review recently filed documents, and hire an attorney. As a precaution, she advises all homeowners to sign up for a free service which will immediately call, email or text a property owner when any filing has been submitted in their name.
“We currently provide what we call the Property Fraud Alert,” Kimbrough noted. “We cannot prevent it from happening. We will alert you to let you know that’s happened, and then you can call us.”
AARP has cautioned homeowners to always review tax, banking and other home-related documents which are sent to another name but using your address. It could be a sign an illegal transfer has occurred. When in doubt, the organization suggested consulting a lawyer before signing anything, and to never sign documents under pressure.

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