Crooks want your home title - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Crooks want your home title

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March 26, 2008

Albany -- It's the newest crime, your house can be stolen and sold right out from under you.

It's called house stealing and essentially happens when scam artists combine two popular rackets, identity theft and mortgage fraud.

According to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute Georgia has the fourth worst mortgage fraud problem in the country. The FBI has a warning for home owners, to check your home's title as often as you check your credit report.

Real estate attorneys say Georgia is one of the worst states for mortgage fraud, especially around Atlanta. Now they're worried a new scam may be catching on, it's called house stealing. While it hasn't happened here, Albany does have a lot of homes for sale, we found 8 in three blocks on one street.

"It's a much bigger problem in Atlanta than in the more rural community of where we are," said attorney Bo Plowden of Watson, Spence, Lowe & Chambless LLP.

What thieves are doing, they're targeting a house it might be for sale or a vacant property and they're not actually stealing the house they're stealing the title.

Once a con-artist picks a house, using the Internet, they can steal the homeowners identity, create fake-ID's, then by forging forms essentially steal the title for your house and sell it, pocketing the profits. Real Estate Attorneys say it was more likely to have happened in the past, now they check information more closely.

"We check identification and the loan applications have social security numbers and come from large lending institutions typically," said Plowden

"We go through the checks of the jobs and the credit history so it would be difficult, it could be done and it does happen, but it would be difficult," said Stacey Walker, President of Northside Mortgage.

Difficult, but possible and while it hasn't happened to these homeowners, it's reason to be protective of your information.

"What I say now to people is to be more aware of the phone calls and the solicitation that they get on the phone from people trying to help them out of their foreclosure or they're struggling with their house payments," said Walker.

It's why the FBI is urging everyone to check the title on your home to make sure you haven't fallen victim to thieves.

Another way to stay vigilant and protect your home includes opening and following up with any payment books or information you might receive from a mortgage company whether it's in your name or not.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=HomeFraud-JE