Home Canada At least 3 B.C. homes listed for sale without homeowners’ knowledge amid surge in title fraud in Ontario

At least 3 B.C. homes listed for sale without homeowners’ knowledge amid surge in title fraud in Ontario

by News Desk
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According to the state land title authority, there have been at least three attempted title frauds in British Columbia since 2019.

Title fraud is a complex real estate crime in which fraudsters posing as homeowners attempt to sell properties they do not own.

The British Columbia Land Title Survey Authority (LTSA) has confirmed the suspected fraudulent sale of one home in 2019 and another in 2020. In 2021, his third attempt was thwarted before the deal was completed.

Both sales took place in Richmond, just south of Vancouver, and lawsuits are currently underway.

Land title fraud is considered “rare” in British Columbia, according to LTSA, which handles 800,000 to 1 million real estate transactions annually

However, a recent CBC News investigation revealed that this type of crime appears to be on the rise in Ontario. sold or mortgaged Since 2019, without the owner’s knowledge.

Stand-ins pretend to be tenants, homeowners

Fraud is a small number of organized crime groups, Examines public real estate records to identify homes that typically have no mortgage as targets. From there, the group uses stolen identities and hires “stand-ins” to impersonate tenants to gain access to the homes, and impersonate the homeowners to sell the homes.

Sales tend to be relatively quick, with fake owners accepting the first reasonable offer they receive. In rare cases, scammers will take out a mortgage before they have the cash.

Fraudulent identification plays an important role in title fraud. This fraudulent driver’s license was used by a man who was targeted in a name change scam to gain access to two of his facilities in Toronto. (CBC)

The LTSA has confirmed that the two British Columbia sales relied on nearly identical schemes and found that forged documents played a key role in the sale of properties from their rightful owners. confirmed.

“In both cases, the property manager responsible for renting the home received instructions from the scammer from a phone number and email address different from those authorized by the owner, allowing the scammer to impersonate the owner. We have shared a document to do so,” the statement read.

“Both properties were put up for sale by real estate agents who received scanned copies of forged passports to verify the identity of their supposed owners. and assisted the scammers in transferring title to the property.”

Require stricter identity verification

The Richmond RCMP confirmed that the Economic Crime Unit, a specialized section within the Organized Crime Unit, took over one of the investigations in March 2020 after the home was sold without the owner’s permission in late 2019. bottom.

The victim was outside Canada at the time of the sale and two suspects were identified and later arrested.

Facade of the Richmond RCMP Station.
The Richmond RCMP has confirmed that the Economic Crime Division conducted one of its investigations after one home was sold without the owner’s permission in March 2020. (Ben Nerms/CBC)

According to Doug Harris, professor of law at the University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law, the main protection against title fraud today is for legal professionals to verify identities, but title registration systems are designed to protect transactions, not individuals. function.

“It seems counter-intuitive that someone who owns a house could suddenly get rid of it because an innocent buyer made a fraudulent transaction. It’s a safeguard and it protects that deal,” he said. He said.

“This is one of the risks in a system where policy decisions have been made to make the transfer of interest to land easier.”

Due to the increase in cases in Ontario, stricter identity verification.

Over the past year, CBC News has reported numerous allegations that fake IDs and other documents were used to rent homes and obtain fraudulent mortgages. The theft attempt appears to represent an escalation of real estate fraud in Canada.

Series of similar crimes in 2008

Ron Asher, legal counsel for the British Columbia Notary Public Association, helped stop a string of nearly identical crimes in BC in 2008 after an organized group fraudulently sold five homes. I was.

After discovering numerous “red flags” in the ongoing transaction, Asher notified the police, who eventually conducted a sting operation to apprehend the perpetrators.

Here are some warnings for buyers, realtors and lawyers, Usher says: The seller seems unfamiliar with the property, the documentation is new and the data is inconsistent.

Rows and rows of single-family homes stand side by side in this aerial view of Vancouver.
Aerial view of East Vancouver homes taken in July 2018. Homebuyers, realtors and lawyers are being warned by sellers who seem unfamiliar with properties, up-to-date paperwork and data discrepancies. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

For example, in one case in Toronto, a person impersonating a homeowner misspelled his name twice Signing Papers — Details Realtors Missed

Fake IDs are becoming more accessible and harder to spot, Usher said. In a recent case in BC, an attempted fraud successfully obtained her genuine BC driver’s license in the true owner’s name.

“Finding these red flags requires real professional training. It’s an arms race. Everyone in the game is trying to raise the bar.”

“There are so many touchpoints. There is cash flow, there is documented money flow. You have to meet people, you have to answer questions about things.”

Usher said homeowners can protect themselves by setting up Google alerts when their property gets listed. Also, most notably, sign up for title insurance that covers legal fees in case of fraud. However, the title insurance industry cautions. Not currently configured to deal with title fraud On the scale currently experienced in Ontario.

“Fundamentally, we can all empathize with how devastating it can be if you are found to be in very serious legal trouble.

“Everybody has a star when it comes to real estate. Everyone has something they’re getting out of it, and they can always blind you to red flags.”

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