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New Program Aims to Prevent Home Title Theft in Georgia

Home title theft is a scam that is getting more attention. If you haven't heard of this type of fraud, here's what you need to know.

Scams targeting older adults continue to be a big problem, one that won’t be going away anytime soon. In 2023, scams targeting individuals aged 60 and older caused over $3.4 billion in losses, an increase of approximately 11 percent from 2022.[1]


Home title theft is a scam that we’ve been hearing about more often. A form of identity fraud, home title theft happens when someone successfully forges a deed and fraudulently transfers your property to another person’s name. They may also try to borrow against your home equity or even attempt to rent or sell the property for personal profit.


Forms of Home Title Theft

How do thieves use home title theft to scam unwitting people? Home title theft can come in several forms, including:


  • A fraudulent refinance in which the person withdraws your equity and leaves you with another mortgage. While they don’t gain possession of your home, they use your identity to steal money based on your home’s value.

  • Scammers can access your equity through a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and create a mountain of debt for which you are responsible.

  • Thieves can forge deeds to sell uninhabited real estate, such as rental buildings or vacation homes.

  • If you are in financial trouble, a scammer might present you with a fake refinancing opportunity. At closing, you unknowingly sign paperwork for the sale of your home to the scammer.


Home title theft can be financially ruinous for homeowners. When a thief gets a hold of your personal and financial information, they can take out new debts against your home and walk away with the cash or even transfer your property to themselves. Therefore, monitoring your financial information and reporting suspicious activity to your lender and relevant authorities is crucial.

 

Signs of Home Title Theft

How can you tell whether scammers are targeting your home title? Typical signs of home title theft include:


  • Odd items appear on your credit report, such as unfamiliar mortgages and lenders.

  • Mail you usually receive regarding your home, like bills and notices, stops arriving, or mail regarding new financial products you don’t recognize, such as home equity loans, starts arriving.

  • A service you currently pay for, such as Home Title Lock, notifies you of identity theft or illegal activity.

Georgia’s New System Focuses on Home Title Theft Prevention

To address this threat, officials in Georgia have developed a new program called the Filing Activity Notification System (FANS). The program is designed to offer individuals the ability to receive a notification when certain real estate and personal property records are filed with, indexed, and data is transmitted by Clerks of Superior Court throughout the state of Georgia.


If you opt in to this voluntary system, FANS sends you an electronic notification of the filing of a document in select official county records when document index data entered and transmitted to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority (GSCCCA) by the Clerk matches the notification criteria you set. All notifications are forward-looking only. They will be generated for any documents filed and index data received after the date you create a notification request.


All notifications generated by the system are entirely dependent upon the index data that is entered and transmitted by the Clerk of Superior Court in the county of filing. As a result, any notices generated by FANS are not guaranteed by the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority to be either comprehensive, accurate, complete, or current. By opting in to the system, you acknowledge these conditions as well as additional conditions and restrictions related to the type of notifications you may define and the general terms and conditions of the website.


Though the FANS system isn’t perfect, it does add another layer of protection between you and scammers.


Learn more about FANS (and opt in) here: https://fans.gsccca.org/.


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