Forged or fake documents may be all it takes for homeowner impersonators to steal your home.

Organized crime is laundering its dirty cash through real estate frauds that target Ontario and Canadian homeowners. 

Take action before real estate fraud chips away at your foundation.

How Homeowner Impersonators Get Your Title

Who is that stranger on your driver’s licence? Welcome to identity theft, where appearances are never what they seem. You may not know the criminal posing as you, but they know enough about you to take your home. 

Who’s the Target

You’re never too old or too young to be a victim of real estate fraud in Canada, especially if you:

  • spend your winters abroad
  • are an absentee landlord
  • or paid your mortgage in full. 

A Classic Case of Real Estate Fraud

A Toronto-area couple who lost their home to homeowner impersonators wants you to know it could happen to you. Their title was stolen when they moved overseas to work. Three top scams according to Toronto real estate fraud lawyers. 

“Stephanie” and “Derrick” were looking forward to moving back home. Little did they know homeowner impersonators had closed their mortgage loan under false pretences. Not only that, but the transfer fraudsters had sold the distraught couple’s Etobicoke house to a stranger. Get a declaration of guarantor for proof of identity (Ontario). 

Organized Crime Wants Your Home

The couple were astounded to find the new buyer living in their home. A Toronto Police Service photo of the homeowner impersonators is circulating. But the scam is nothing new. Protect important documents from identity thieves

Homeowner Impersonators Photographed, Sold Condo

A former Toronto resident, Muffy Yu, lost her million dollar Yonge Street condo to homeowner impersonators who arranged a photo shoot, listed it on the MLS, and sold it for $970,000. 

Her property currently has a caution on title to warn future “buyers”. Yu, now in China, is shocked by the “bizarre” incident and uphill battle to get her title back. Like other defrauded homeowners, she can’t sell, mortgage, or borrow against her own property. 

The theft is a slam dunk for organized crime rings. They profit while Yu makes the social media rounds to caution other Asian buyers. Real estate fraud common, private investigator says

Tips for Stopping Fraudsters

Could transfer fraud happen to you? Here’s what to do if you’re worried it might.

Protect Yourself When Buying Property

  1. Only deal with licenced mortgage brokers http://mbsweblist.fsco.gov.on.ca/agents.aspx or lawyers and designated  property appraisers. Hire a property appraiser in Ontario
  2. Don’t leave signature blocks blank or sign legal papers you don’t understand. Homeowner impersonators may substitute their name for yours or dazzle you with terms and conditions only a real estate lawyer could decipher. 
  3. Check private home sellers’ reputation on the Internet and social media. Look for independent websites the seller hasn’t suggested.
  4. Have an Axess Law real estate lawyer search title to a property. See who really owns it and how many times it’s been sold. While you’re at it, chat up the new home’s neighbours.
  5. Arrange title insurance when your real estate lawyer closes the deal. Title insurance reimburses you if you are victimized by transfer fraud, plus pays your legal expenses. Spend a few dollars more to cover your spouse or child. Why you need title insurance. 

Avoid Being Scammed as a Seller

  1. Use the MLS or established real estate brokerages to list your home. Locate a REALTOR® near me. 
  2. Hold good faith deposits in your lawyer’s trust account.
  3. Don’t be rushed into completing a sale. Work with a trusted real estate law firm like Axess Law to ensure a sale is valid.
  4. Check references and verify identity documents before renting your home. Organized crime rings offer homeowner impersonators $10,000 to $15,000 to pose as renters. 
  5. Prevent identity theft by ensuring mail is forwarded or held if you go away or lease property you own. 
  6. Cruise MLS listings and for sale by owner websites to see if your home has been falsely listed. 

Using a real estate lawyer to close mortgage transactions

If You’re a Victim of False Pretences

 

Are you a victim of an organized crime real estate fraud? Call the police, your real estate lawyer, and title insurer. You can report homeowner impersonators to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Ask Ontario’s Land Titles Assurance Fund (LTAF) about compensation for financial, legal, or related costs of transfer fraud. Contact the LTAF