Criminals stealing property by taking over land titles without the original owner’s knowledge is nothing new.  It often starts with  Identity Theft and for several years it has been more common in  hot real estate markets.  That happens when financial institutions don’t have the manpower to verify buyers adequately and the criminals use stolen personal information at the Land Titles Office, to impersonate the original owner.  And the property theft is much easier if the owner has a clear title to the property.  People have been known to apply for a new mortgage as the first step to downsizing, only to find they don’t own the home they are living in.  In fact, the new owner, a criminal, has already taken out a mortgage on the property and disappeared with the money.

So the question becomes, what can you do as a property owner, to prevent such activities?  First, once every 6 to 12 months, simply go to a Registry Office, spend the $25.00 or so, and order a copy of your title, so you can see if there are details listed that aren’t legitimate. 

Second, set up a large Line Of Credit, using the property as collateral.  The financial institution will register that on the title.  If you don’t use the Line of Credit, it doesn’t cost anything for interest.  But someone attempting to take over the title will have to obtain clearance of the Line Of Credit first, which will raise red flags.  If you presently have a mortgage, you could set up the Line Of Credit quite easily when you renew your mortgage.  The Line Of Credit could be viewed as a type of “poison pill” against would-be property thieves.

Title Theft – another Identity Theft risk  and  another example of a crime for which we can take some simple steps to significantly reduce our risk.

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