Home Title Lock is a nationwide company that provides insurance against title fraud, also known as “house stealing.” This type of fraud has been recognized by the FBI as early as 2008, and, though its prevalence is unknown, title fraud has been occurring more frequently. If you’re a homeowner and don’t have owner’s title insurance, Home Title Lock is an option to consider. Below, we have all of the details about title fraud and how you can help prevent losses, including whether or not you should purchase Home Title Lock services.
Is Home Title Lock Worth It?
Home Title Lock protects your home and property from title fraud, a crime that is also referred to as home title fraud, deed fraud, deed theft, or house stealing. In order to decide whether Home Title Lock, or owner’s title insurance in general, is right for you, it’s important to know how title fraud happens and what steps you can take to prevent home title fraud losses.
What Is Title Fraud?
Home title fraud occurs when someone claims your house as their own and either sells the property or monetizes it in some way. The first step in title fraud is typically identity theft. Once your identity has been assumed, the thief can transfer your property to another name and assume possession of your house.
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 transferring ownership of your property, the thief can refinance your home, pocket the difference, and then walk away without making payments on the new mortgage. The homeowner is often not aware 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.
- Watch out for foreclosure rescue scams, largely targeted at seniors or homeowners in financial crisis. A thief will offer an easy “refinancing” deal that is actually documented as a home sale, giving the thief full possession of your property.
While the exact frequency of home title fraud is unknown, largely because many cases of title fraud go unreported, the FBI has said it is a growing problem. Credit reporting bureau Experian, in its most recent Identity Theft Statistics report, reports 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, an Experian company representative said that home title theft was included in that category. Additionally, Home Title Lock’s FAQ page states that title fraud losses in 2015 totaled more than $5 billion.
How Can I Prevent Title Theft?
The biggest problem with home title theft is that the transactions appear legal since everything is done in the name of the property owner. Challenging deed theft, once it occurs, can be prohibitively expensive. One way to help prevent home title theft losses is to monitor your credit report and watch for suspicious loans or new lines of credit you didn’t initiate. You can then report these transactions as fraud to the credit bureaus. But, even careful monitoring may not prevent title theft.
If you purchased owner’s title insurance when you bought your home, your policy protects against title fraud. However, it’s important to understand that there are two types of title insurance: seller’s and owner’s. Home buyers are required to purchase seller’s title insurance, 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. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover title fraud.
Home Title Lock is a service that is similar to owner’s title insurance and can be purchased at any time. Home Title Lock monitors property records and protects online information about your home’s title and mortgage, alerting you to any changes in your title or mortgage and helping to shut down suspicious activity. Home Title Lock cost $14.99 per month per property.
Are There Any Home Title Lock Competitors?
At this time, there are no direct competitors to Home Title Lock offering similar services on a nationwide scale. Homeowners who are concerned about falling victim to home title fraud can choose to monitor their property records and credit reports themselves. Home Title Lock, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, provides convenience and peace of mind by taking care of this for you — or a loved one. One consideration might be to sign up an aging parent’s property for Home Title Lock if you’re worried about title fraud. But, since there are no similar companies, the market for this type of service may be considered unnecessary.
If you are in the process of buying your first home or a new home, you may want to invest in owner’s title insurance to protect your investment from home title fraud and claims against your home. 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, you may be able to save money if you purchase seller’s and owner’s title insurance from the same company.
So is Home Title Lock worth it? Home Title Lock provides protection for your home against title fraud schemes designed to steal your house. The service costs $14.99 per month. Alternately, if you are purchasing a new home, you can invest in owner’s title insurance. Home Title Lock has an A+ rating from the BBB, but, since there are no major competitors, such service may be considered unnecessary.
For more information on protecting your home, see our article: The Best Homeowner Insurance Companies