What do you get when you combine two popular rackets these days, identity theft and mortgage fraud? A totally new kind of crime: house stealing.
It can get even more complicated than this. In a recent case out of Los Angeles that was investigated by the IRS last year, a real estate business owner in southeast Los Angeles pled guilty to leading a scam that defrauded more than 100 homeowners and lenders out of some $12 million. She promised to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages by refinancing their loans. Instead, she and her partners used stolen identities or "straw buyers" (people who are paid for the illegal use of their personal information) to purchase these homes. They then pocketed the money they borrowed but never made any mortgage payments. In the process, the true owners lost the titles to their homes and the banks were out the money they had loaned to fake buyers.
The best you can do is to stay vigilant. A few suggestions:
If you receive a payment book or information from a mortgage company that's not yours, whether your name is on the envelope or not, don’t just throw it away. Open it, figure out what it says, and follow up with the company that sent it.
From time to time, it's also a good idea to check all information pertaining to your house through your county’s deeds office. If you see any paperwork you don't recognize or any signature that is not yours, look into it.
House stealing is not too common at this point, but we’re watching for any major cases or developing trends.
If you believe that you have been a victim of these or any fraudulent schemes, please contact our Member Service Contact Center immediately at 1-877-GOLDEN 1 (1-877-465-3361).
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This credit union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.