Complete Guide to Avoiding Home Title Theft

Home title theft is a risk, but you can protect against it by keeping your identifying information secure.
Christy Rakoczy, Author
Catherine McNally, Editor
Last updated Oct 24, 2022

Is home title theft real? Unfortunately, this dangerous and damaging type of identity theft does occur and it can be a complicated problem for those who fall victim to it.

As the FBI explains, home title theft happens when someone transfers your property to them. Using fake IDs and forged signatures or other nefarious techniques, scammers can actually get the title of your home changed so they become the new legal owners.

The good news: You can protect against home title theft by taking some crucial steps to keep your identifying information secure. This guide will explain everything you need to know to do that.

In this article
What is home title theft?
Should I be worried about title theft?
How do I avoid title fraud?
1. Monitor your credit
2. Buy title insurance
3. Monitor your bills
4. Protect your personal information
5. Follow safe internet practices
Home title theft FAQs
Bottom Line

What is home title theft?

Home title theft occurs when a criminal steals a property from its rightful owner by illegally obtaining the title to the property.

Often, house stealing occurs with rental or vacation homes because owners may not immediately notice when something has gone wrong with these types of properties and because these properties are sometimes vacant. However, it can also occur with single-family properties that people are living in as well.

There are several different ways that home title fraud can occur. One of the most common approaches is for a con artist to research who owns a property and then find the personal identifying information of that person.

Once a scammer has their name and personal details, they can obtain forms that transfer property, fill them out with the stolen information, and then transfer the deed. The scammer will become the new "property owner," and can go ahead and sell the property to an unsuspecting buyer.

Scammers can also commit home title theft using refinancing or fake home purchase scams. Thieves may target buyers struggling to make payments and promise to help them refinance. Instead, they sell the house to straw buyers they create using stolen identities, taking the money borrowed for the homes and not paying back the loans at all.

Should I be worried about title theft?

Home title theft is a serious issue because you could lose legal ownership of your home. The good news is, though, that home title theft is not very common so there's a minimal risk of this happening to you.

Although the threat isn't great, because protecting yourself against home title theft is simple and involves following best practices for preventing identity theft, there is no reason not to make the effort to keep your home's title secure.

How do I avoid title fraud?

The best way to avoid title fraud is to protect your personal information. And you can employ different techniques for doing that including the following five strategies.

1. Monitor your credit

Keep tabs on your credit report. If you notice any new inquiries in your credit history that you didn't request, it could suggest someone is applying for lines of credit in your name. You can also see if there are any judgments against you, such as liens on your property, or if an alternative name shows up under your Social Security number. You can obtain a free copy of your report from AnnualCreditReport.com.

2. Buy title insurance

Title insurance can also help protect you from title thieves. When ownership of a property is transferred, you can buy title insurance to protect against claims against the home. If the previous owner had liens or there was some other defect with the title such as a forged deed, title insurance will cover your losses. This could be helpful to protect those who might purchase a home with a stolen property title.

Typically, the cost of title insurance is paid up front at your real estate closing and the policy is usually priced between 0.5% and 1.0% of the home's sale price.

Title lock insurance is also available and it protects against title fraud. Title lock insurance monitors for changes to the deed to your home and alerts you if the legal ownership is changed so you can immediately become aware if someone has stolen your home's title. You may not need this type of coverage as you can conduct a search of your deed yourself for free.

3. Monitor your bills

Monitoring your bills can also help you to identify when your personal information may have fallen into the wrong hands. If there are charges you do not recognize, if your address is changed, or if a bill does not come as expected (potentially because it has been redirected), these are red flags that could indicate you've been a victim of identity theft.

4. Protect your personal information

Protecting your personal information can also help you avoid home title theft. If scammers cannot obtain your full name and Social Security number or other identifying details, they cannot create forms that fraudulently transfer the title out of your name.

5. Follow safe internet practices

Finally, it is important to stay safe online as many people unlawfully obtain personal information by using the internet. To protect your identity against cybercrimes, you can take steps including the following:

  • Use a secure password. You don't want thieves to be able to gain access to your accounts, which can happen if your password is easy to guess. Get a password manager if you aren't sure how to create and remember secure passwords.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when available. This requires you to provide two forms of authentication before signing into accounts. For example, you may have to enter your password and also input a code that is sent to your cell phone.
  • Be careful about which websites you provide information to. Don't click on links that request information as they could be phishing sites and always check that you are using a secure site (labeled https rather than just http) before providing personal details.

Home title theft FAQs


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Is stealing home titles a real thing?

Yes, fraudsters could target your home title and try to transfer it into their name. This is also called deed fraud, and while it rarely happens, it's still worth protecting yourself against this and other types of identity theft.


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Is title lock a waste of money?

Most people believe that home title lock isn't worth the cost, since it claims to protect you against title fraud but isn't actually a type of insurance. Instead, you should take steps to protect your personally identifiable information (PII) from identity thieves and cybercriminals.


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What is title insurance?

Title insurance is intended to protect you, the homeowner, when you purchase a new home. These issues could range from unpaid property taxes, fraud, or another person claiming they own the property.

When it comes to home title theft, title insurance can help protect you against fraudulent claims of ownership, and you should also visit the county recorder's office to check property and land records to see if your new property has been a target of home title theft in the past.

Bottom Line

Your home is a valuable asset and you don't want to risk falling victim to home title theft. By taking some steps to keep your information safe, you can protect your property and also avoid other problems that scammers could cause in your financial life.

If you believe you're a victim of title theft, you should take appropriate steps and alert relevant agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), contact your bank, and possibly even freeze your credit.

Author Details
Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy is an identity theft expert with more than a decade of experience writing about cybersecurity issues and laws surrounding identity fraud. She has a law degree from UCLA and is a former college instructor who taught courses focused on legal issues surrounding internet privacy.