Imagine answering a knock at your front door and finding a man on your doorstep claiming to own your home. Somehow, your home’s title was transferred out of your name without your knowledge. The stranger demands that you pack up and leave his property immediately.
This is the nightmare scenario that came up in a conversation I had recently. This scam, which is known as home title theft, is yet another way that fraudsters try to steal from people.
How worried should you be about home title theft? Is a home title lock necessary to protect your home from title theft? I’m a highly experienced veteran of the mortgage industry. I’ll address what you should and shouldn’t be concerned about and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
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Should You Be Worried About Home Title Theft?
Home title theft is the fraudulent transfer of your home’s deed into the name of another person. Once the title is transferred, the fraudster attempts to steal your home equity by selling your home or taking out a mortgage.
Victims of home title theft may not discover they’re victims until strangers show up at the door to kick them out.
Home title theft is frightening to think about, but honestly, it’s not high on my list of concerns. There is another far more concerning way that fraudsters can steal from you. I’ll cover what that is and how to protect yourself in a moment.
Home title theft doesn’t concern me because it’s not easy to do. Think about what’s involved in transferring a real estate deed: you fill out a new deed and sign it in the presence of a notary. The notary requires you to provide official identification to prove who you are, then logs the transaction and signatures in case of future litigation. Finally, the signed and notarized deed is recorded in the county records for a fee of $50 to $100 to make it official.
As you can see, transferring title involves multiple steps – and some of the steps must be completed in person with official identification.
Even if a thief does manage to steal your home’s title, they still have to figure out how to cash in your home’s equity. Their options are to sell your home or borrow against it, but either option requires signatures, identification, and notarization.
Folks, it’s not that easy to steal your home’s title. Even if it does somehow happen, you have every right to challenge the fraudulent deed in court. Once you’ve shown that it’s not your signature on the fraudulent deed, it’s null and void.
So, how bad is home title theft? Bad enough – if a thief can actually pull it off. Again, I don’t think it’s that easy to do.
Is a Title Lock Necessary?
Is a home title lock necessary and worth getting? In my opinion, the answer is no. Let me explain why.
The term “home title lock” is misleading because it implies that you can freeze your home’s title like you can freeze your credit file. There is no way to do this! There is no mechanism by which you can freeze your home’s title and prevent fraudsters from trying to change it. All home title lock services do is monitor your home’s title and inform you of changes after they’ve already happened.
Many home title lock services also portray themselves as a form of insurance – which they’re not. If you’re victimized by home title theft, they don’t help you clean up the mess. You’re on your own!
In my opinion, home title lock services offer a lot of fearmongering, but little real value for the $10-$20 per month they charge.
If you’re concerned about home title theft, you can always monitor your home’s title yourself for free by periodically checking your address on your county’s website.
How Legitimate is Home Title Lock (the Company)?
Home Title Lock is one of the more prominent companies offering so-called home title “lock” services. You may have seen their advertisements online or heard them on the radio. They seem to have a who’s who of well-known names representing and marketing them, based on their website.
Home Title Locks appears to be a legit company, but I don’t think they offer much value for the $15 to $20 the charge per month for their services.
Who Owns Home Title Lock?
It’s not clear from their website who owns the company. It appears to have been started by a title industry veteran. It also appears to be privately held and there’s not a lot of information out there about who owns them.
Home Title Lock Complaints
What is the Best Home Title Protection?
Again, I’m not concerned too much about home title theft. However, if you are, you can get more protection for your money than what Home Title Lock offers. I’ll recommend a service I personally use in a moment that provides better protection that also happens to include title monitoring as well.
Is a Home Title Lock Necessary or Worth It?
I’m not too concerned about home title theft. I don’t think a home title lock is necessary or worth it. We’ll cover my real concern and how to protect yourself from it in just a moment.
The Real Threat You Should Be Concerned About
As I’ve covered, you probably shouldn’t lose sleep over home title theft. What should concern you, however, is identity theft. If you haven’t taken proactive steps to protect your identity, you’re potentially a sitting duck for identity thieves. All it takes is a single data breach to expose your personal information to fraudsters who will destroy your credit.
Data Breaches Happen All The Time
Unfortunately, data breaches happen all the time. The most infamous breach in recent years was the 2017 Equifax data breach. Equifax is one of the three major repositories that provide credit reporting information to banks when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or reverse mortgage.
Equifax aggregates and stores an enormous amount of highly personal information, including your name, social security number, loan and credit card account numbers, payment histories, address history, work history, date of birth, public records about you, etc.
In short, Equifax is the holy grail for identity thieves.
Unfortunately, Equifax blew it. The 2017 data breach exposed personal information on 147 million Americans to hackers and fraudsters. Folks, that’s over half of the adults in the country! That means there’s a 1 in 2 chance that at least some of your personal information was compromised.
You’re probably very careful about protecting your personal information. You don’t give it out unless it’s absolutely necessary, right? But here’s the problem: it might already be out there because of the negligence and mistakes of others. This is why it’s so important to get identity theft protection.
Credit Monitoring Is Not Enough
Credit monitoring is good, but it’s not enough. Yes, credit monitoring alerts you to potential identity theft, but it doesn’t help you clean up the mess if you become a victim.
Cleaning up from identity theft is a nightmare. Trust me on this – I’ve talked with people who have had to do it. It’s expensive, tedious, time-consuming, and can take years.
Meanwhile, it will be difficult (or impossible) to get a mortgage, credit card, loan, job, professional certification, security clearance, or even just rent an apartment.
Credit monitoring is good, but credit monitoring plus credit restoration is far better.
How I Protect My Family
Is a home title lock necessary to protect yourself from home title theft? Again, probably not. As I’ve covered, there’s really no way to “lock” your home’s title and prevent changes, anyway.
Home title lock services simply monitor your home’s title for changes. You can do this yourself for free by checking the county website every now.
The bigger concern is identity theft. Data breaches happen all the time, so it’s only a matter of time before your personal information is exposed – if it hasn’t been already. Don’t lose sleep over whether or not you should pay for a home title lock. The more important concern is identity theft.
And if home title theft concerns you, guess what? It’s part of the deal too! You can get credit monitoring, credit restoration, and home title theft monitoring all in one package for the cost of a barebones credit monitoring service or home title “lock” service.
I highly recommend getting comprehensive identity theft protection (that also includes home title monitoring) for your family ASAP. I’ve used it to protect my family for over ten years now.
Will a credit freeze prevent home title theft?
Probably not. Your credit file and your home’s title are two completely separate things. However, a credit freeze is worthwhile because it makes it more difficult for fraudsters to open loans in your name.
What is the truth about Home Title Lock?
It appears to be a legit company, but it doesn’t offer much value for the $15 to $20 it charges per month, in our opinion. There are better services that offer more value for your money and happen to include home title monitoring.
Is a home title lock necessary?
So, is a home title lock necessary for most homeowners? Does it even help with anything? In my opinion, the answer is no. Title theft is not that easy to accomplish. There are more important things to protect yourself from, as we’ve covered here.
Is Home Title Lock worth the money?
We don’t think so. There are better services that offer more comprehensive protection (including home title monitoring) for a similar price.
Is the title lock worth it?
Is a home title lock necessary? Is it worth it? Not really. You can monitor your home’s title on your own for free by periodically checking your county’s website. There are also better services that offer more comprehensive protection (including home title monitoring) for a similar price.
So, is a home title lock worth the money? Is a home title lock necessary even? In our opinion, the answer is no. The far scarier way thieves can steal from you is through identity theft. We highly recommend protecting your family from identity theft right away.