Home Title Lock provides insurance against title fraud, also known as “house stealing” or “deed theft.” Whether it’s worthwhile for you will depend on the type of property you own, how much time you’re willing to put into monitoring your deed(s), and whether you already have owner’s title insurance. Below, we explain more about 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:
- Forging a deed to refinance the home, then pocketing the difference and walking away without making payments on the new mortgage; the homeowner is often unaware of this until the property goes into foreclosure.
- Opening a home equity line of credit (HELOC) through an account in your name and cashing out, leaving you with the debt and potential foreclosure
- Foreclosure rescue scams — “easy refinancing” deals that are documented as home sales; largely targets seniors or homeowners in financial crises
- Targeting empty homes, such as vacation homes or the property of a deceased owner still in probate; the thief may steal the owner’s identity and sell the property, walking away with the profits.
Is Home Title Lock Worth It?
If you didn’t 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 It 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 a 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.
Your Title Theft Risk Level
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many cases of title fraud occur each year since many go unreported. In 2017, Experian noted 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 itself reports that title fraud losses in 2015 (the most recent numbers the company provides) totaled more than $5 billion.
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. 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’s your primary residence. However, this type of crime is still relatively uncommon. Credit card, tax, online shopping, email, social media, and mobile phone-related identity theft are greater risks than title theft.
Home Title Lock Cost
Challenging deed theft, once it occurs, can be costly — 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 $150 per property if billed annually).
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 and some financial coverage 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
Owner’s title insurance and self-monitoring are two alternatives to Home Title Lock that may work better for you, depending on the particulars of your situation. We explain these options below.
Home Title Lock vs. Title Insurance
If you bought title insurance that protects against title fraud when you bought your home, you don’t need Home Title Lock. However, keep in mind that there are two types of title insurance: lender’s and owner’s. Homebuyers are required to purchase lender’s title insurance (which doesn’t cover title fraud), but owner’s title insurance is optional and only purchasable before you close on the home, so many homeowners skip it.
If you’re in the process of buying your first home or a new home, consider investing in owner’s title insurance. Since it isn’t a mandatory “fixed” fee on a mortgage, 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. Keep in mind that you may save money if you purchase lender’s and owner’s title insurance from the same company.
While Home Title Lock saves you the time and effort of monitoring your home’s deed and online public information, 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’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Services like Credit Karma can provide more frequent credit score updates.
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, the Federal Trade Commission, and local law enforcement.
For more information on protecting your home, see our research on the best homeowner’s insurance companies.
- Home Title Lock customer service (800) 899-6268
- Experian customer service (888) 397-3742
- LifeLock customer service (800) 543-3562