Then one day, you get a phone call from the bank inquiring why you have not made your mortgage payments. Or worse, someone knocks on your door to announce they are the new owners of your house!
If this has happened to you, you’ve become the victim of real estate fraud.
While real estate fraud may not be a common type of fraud in Canada, it’s important to recognize that it is a very real threat to homeowners as well as rental property owners.
Title fraud is one form of real estate fraud. Title fraud is when a criminal uses your identity to assume the title of your home, sell it or get a new mortgage on it. Once the money from the sale or the new mortgage is advanced, the criminal takes the money and leaves you with a substantial problem on your hands.
What to do if you’re a victim of title fraud
- If you have land title insurance, which protects you against ownership claims against your property, contact your insurance company immediately.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or to report the crime.
- Report the situation to the local police, and record the police report number.
As real estate fraud begins with identity theft, you’ll want to take steps to repair the damage as soon as possible:
- Contact Canada’s main credit reporting agencies: TransUnion Canada at 1-800-663-9980 and Equifax Canada at 1-800-465-7166 and press option 3 for Fraud. Ask each agency to send you a copy of your credit report, and discuss with them whether you should have a fraud alert placed on your file.
- Contact your bank. Keep all of the documents that provide evidence of the fraud. Record the name of the person you spoke to at the bank, as well as the date and time you called and when you became aware that you are a victim of fraud.
You may be able to obtain compensation through the Land Titles Assurance Fund. Under the Land Titles Act, the Land Titles Assurance Fund is a fund established to compensate people for certain financial losses they incur due to real estate fraud or omissions and errors of the land registration system.
- Contact the Alberta provincial land registry office nearest you for information and assistance. (Edmonton 780-427-2742, Calgary 403-297-6511)
As with any criminal act, timing is critical. It’s important to take immediate action to have the right authorities working on your side, and prevent real estate fraud from happening to other property owners.