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How To Prevent Title Fraud Committed Through Email Scams and Identity Theft

What You Need To Know About Deed/Title Fraud In Arizona

Maybe you have heard of criminals using deed fraud to steal someone’s home and you are wondering if your home is at risk.

Deed fraud is on the rise. Generally, this starts with some kind of identification fraud. Someone claims to be the owner of the home and claims the deed.

Check all your home's information to make sure there are no surprises
Check all your home’s information to make sure there are no surprises

In the well-known case of Arizona resident Deb Gottlieb, a 30-year-old California man assumed the identity of her deceased father, acquired the deed for the home and sold it using his own driver’s license for ID. Debs father was in his 80’s – no one noticed the age difference on the driver’s license. They did not verify his identity. By the time Deb got to the home to inspect it, the many family heirlooms, pictures, and treasures had been pitched and a new “owner” was in the home.

Could this happen to you? Yes! Even the smartest among us can be outsmarted.

Rosie on the House Certified Vikki Gorman with Realty Executives gives us some cautionary tips to help protect our property.

Keep An Eye On Your Property and Land

  • Go to your County recorder’s website. For example, if you are in Maricopa County go to Enter your full name and email address. You will receive an email alerting you if your property information is changed for any reason.
  • Create a Google Alert for your property using your parcel I.D. number when you purchase the property. Do it right now for your existing properties too.  

Are You Buying or Selling A Home?

Always use a reputable Realtor and title agency when buying or selling a home. As in all industries, not all operate the same.

  • Always use a reputable Realtor and title agency when buying or selling a home.
    Always use a reputable Realtor and title agency when buying or selling a home

    A competent Realtor will check your county tax records. They will also check ID to assure that the person they are working with is who they say they are.

  • The Realtor will have a title company they recommend and trust. The mortgage lender will order a title search from the title company. Public records including, mortgages, divorce deeds, court judgments, tax records, and child support orders are routinely searched.
  • The title company will search the property for any liens held against the property, easement records, and encumbrances (which would include infractions against zoning laws or HOA regulations.)

Consider Title Insurance

Vikki recommends title insurance for further protection of your property.

Title Insurance, good for as long as the buyer owns the home, is a form of indemnity insurance that protects lenders and homebuyers from financial loss sustained from defects in a title to a property. It is a policy that covers third-party claims on a property that don’t show up in the initial title search and arise after a real estate closing.

Beware Of Similar Fraud/Scams

Vikki tells us that she sees wire fraud as something more threatening than deed fraud, as it is a more common practice. Thieves have gotten way too good at diverting large sums of money, wired by individuals, into their own nefarious accounts, rather than to the accounts of the title agency and the mortgage company. Here is a copy of the Wire Fraud Advisory that Vikki uses.

Be Aware!

  • Never trust wiring instructions sent via email.
    Never trust wiring instructions sent via email

    Your lender, title agency, and realtor should inform you of how you can expect to communicate with them. What will they be asking you for by email, by phone, or by text? How will money be sent and received? These are questions the trusted entities should answer.

  • Vikki cautions us: Never trust wiring instructions sent via email. Cyber criminals are hacking email accounts and sending emails with fake wiring instructions. These emails are convincing and sophisticated. Always independently confirm wiring instructions in person or via a telephone call to a trusted and verified phone number. Never wire money without double-checking that the wiring instructions are correct.

Vikki tells us that she, nor any other Realtor, is ever the recipient of money during a real estate sale. She told us of a situation where her email signature was copied and an email with that signature was sent to one of her clients urging them to wire money quickly to close a real estate deal they were working on. The client sent the money to a fraudulent recipient. Thanks to quick action on Vikki’s part, and a call to the FBI, and a call to the city police department, they were able to recover the money!

Pay attention to the details and protect yourself from fraud!

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Discussion of our top picks we liked at the 2024 Kitchen And Bath Industry Show that are pretty incredible. What you must know and what you can do to avoid deed and title fraud. Plus planning and preparing for wildfire season.

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