Home Title Lock is a nationwide company that provides insurance against title fraud, also known as “house stealing” or “deed theft.” Whether Home Title Lock is worthwhile for you will depend on the type of property you own, how much time you’re willing to put into monitoring your own deed(s), and whether you already have owner’s title insurance.
Below, we explain what title fraud is and how you can help prevent losses, including whether or not you should purchase Home Title Lock services.
What Is Title Fraud?
Home title fraud occurs when someone forges a deed to your property and either sells the property or monetizes it in some other way. The FBI first reported on house stealing in 2008, and this type of scam has evolved and spread since. The ways that title fraud can occur include:
- After forging a deed, the thief can refinance your home, pocket the difference, and then walk away without making payments on the new mortgage. The homeowner is often unaware of this until the property goes into foreclosure.
- The thief can open a home equity line of credit through an account in your name and cash out, leaving you with the debt and potential foreclosure.
- Some fraudsters target empty homes, such as vacation homes or the property of a deceased owner that is still in probate. A thief can steal the owner’s identity and sell the property, walking away with the profits.
- Foreclosure rescue scams largely target seniors or homeowners in financial crises. A thief will offer an easy “refinancing” deal that is actually documented as a home sale, giving the thief full possession of your property.
Is Home Title Lock Worth It?
If you did not purchase owner’s title insurance before closing on your property, Home Title Lock might be worth considering. Unlike owner’s title insurance, you can sign up for Home Title Lock at any time after closing. However, there are limits to the protection it provides, and your risk for title fraud might not be as high as you think, based on the company’s advertising.
How Home Title Lock Works
Home Title Lock protects your home and property from title fraud by monitoring property records and protecting online information about your home’s title and mortgage. To catch any changes or theft attempts, Home Title Lock says it will monitor your records 24/7 — providing faster response than if you were to check the records yourself. The company will alert you to any changes in your title or mortgage and help to shut down suspicious activity.
Am I at High Risk for Title Theft?
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many cases of title fraud occur each year since many cases go unreported. Experian notes in its most recent Identity Theft Statistics report that in 2017, there were 30,034 reported cases of identity theft leading to loan or lease fraud. Although not every instance was title theft, a representative for Experian said that home title theft is included in that category. Home Title Lock’s FAQ page states that title fraud losses in 2015 (the most recent numbers the company provides) totaled more than $5 billion.
Representatives from Home Title Lock, the credit reporting bureau Experian, and the identity theft protection service LifeLock explain that title fraud is increasing in prevalence. Elderly homeowners, those who own a large number of properties, those who own vacant properties, and those who own second homes are most susceptible to title theft, the representatives said. Homeowners in these categories may be more likely to miss unusual mailings like past-due notices or refinancing offers under a different name than their own. If you fall into one of these categories, Home Title Lock will be more worthwhile than if you own a single home that serves as your primary residence.
However, this type of crime is still relatively uncommon. Statistics from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network show that credit card, tax, online shopping, email, social media, and mobile phone-related identity theft are still far greater risks than title theft.
Home Title Lock Cost
Challenging deed theft, once it occurs, can be prohibitively expensive — up to $100,000 or more, based on news reports of previous cases of title theft documented in publications like the New York Post and The Washington Post. By comparison, Home Title Lock costs about $15 per month, per property (or about $180 per year, per property).
This is a relatively low price to monitor for title fraud if you think your home may be at risk. However, keep in mind that Home Title Lock only promises expert assistance in the case of title or mortgage fraud; it will not cover all of your legal expenses in the event of an actual title theft.
Other Ways to Protect Your Home
Home Title Lock vs. Title Insurance
If you purchased owner’s title insurance when you bought your home, your policy should protect you against title fraud; you do not need Home Title Lock. However, keep in mind that there are two types of title insurance: seller’s and owner’s. Homebuyers are required to purchase seller’s title insurance (which does not cover title fraud), but owner’s title insurance is optional, and many homeowners skip this coverage. Also, you can only purchase owner’s title insurance before you close on your home.
If you are in the process of buying your first home or a new home, consider investing in owner’s title insurance. Owner’s title insurance is not mandatory and is not one of the “fixed” fees on a mortgage, so you’ll need to shop around for an owner’s title insurance provider. The American Land Title Association provides state-by-state information on title insurance companies, along with other services for home closings, such as lenders and real estate attorneys. Keep in mind that you may be able to save money if you purchase seller’s and owner’s title insurance from the same company.
While Home Title Lock does save you the effort of monitoring your home’s deed and online public information, you don’t necessarily need Home Title Lock to protect your title. Home Title Lock has no direct competitors, but you can monitor your own property records and credit reports for signs of fraud.
Watch for suspicious loans or new lines of credit you didn’t initiate. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can use a service like Credit Karma (which provides more frequent credit score updates) to keep an eye on your credit.
You can also check the status of your deed online in many cities/counties. See if your local registry of deeds offers notifications for deed changes; if it doesn’t, just check with the local register regularly to monitor any changes.
If you notice any issues with your credit reports or property records, you should notify the three major credit bureaus, your local register of deeds, and local law enforcement.
Is Home Title Lock worth it? Home Title Lock can give you peace of mind and allow you to monitor your property records regularly without putting in the effort to check them manually. However, Home Title Lock cannot prevent title or mortgage fraud and will not cover your legal fees in the event of title theft — it can only notify you of any potential issues with your records and provide advice. If you are purchasing a new home, consider investing in owner’s title insurance before closing as an alternative. After closing, you can also monitor your own property records and credit report if you do not want to pay for Home Title Lock.
For more information on protecting your home, see our research on the best homeowner’s insurance companies.