May 2023
Most Common Title Defects Fraud and Forgery

Most Common Title Defects: Fraud and Forgery

By Jeff Lender

As a trusted title insurance company for nearly 20 years, World Wide Land Transfer is dedicated to protecting homeowners, sellers, and lenders from title defects that could cost them money or cause ongoing legal headaches. As part of our ongoing blog series about the most common types of title defects, we would like to share some information with you about another issue we have seen pop up during real estate transactions: fraud and forgery.

Fraud and Forgery in Real Estate Transactions

In a perfect world, we would always be able to trust that the people selling a property had legal ownership of that property as well as the right to transfer it. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. 

In one case that occurred in New York City in 2015, a family’s $1.5 million brownstone was transferred to another person without their knowledge. Here, fraudsters claimed to be the only surviving heirs of a couple that purchased the home in 1945 and filed forged documents to obtain ownership of the property. While it is unclear whether the rightful owners were ever able to reclaim the property, they were forced to spend countless hours and dollars defending themselves in court. 

That same year, the New York City Sheriff’s office received some 755 complaints related to deed theft and arrested more than half a dozen deed fraudsters. This shows that deed theft and other forms of fraud are more common than you might think. In most cases, thieves find a property that has been vacant for some time and draw up fraudulent paperwork to obtain ownership. In the New York City case, the fraudsters were able to sell the brownstone to another party before the rightful owners were even aware of the problem.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Fraud and Forgery in a Real Estate Transaction?

The owners of that New York City brownstone and countless other victims across the country could have saved themselves a great deal of money and time if they had purchased a TIRSA Owner’s Extended Protection policy (TOEPP). While a basic title insurance policy can protect a homebuyer from incurring the legal costs of resolving ownership disputes before closing, it typically would not provide the same protection once the property has been purchased. , The TOEPP Policy, on the other hand, can cover costs related to title fraud after a sale has been completed.

Although buyers are not legally required to purchase a title insurance policy in many states, the above story demonstrates why incurring this affordable, one-time cost would be well worth the money in the long run. Many types of title defects can be costly to resolve or can call the ownership of a property into question, so finding a way to protect yourself is a smart idea. If you would like to find out more about title insurance and enhanced title insurance policies anywhere in the country, get in touch with the team at World Wide Land Transfer today.

World Wide Land Transfer is a service-oriented PA title company with offices in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. With a record of going above and beyond, we are trusted to close everything from complex commercial transactions to residential refinance and purchase transactions.

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