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Scammer attempted to sell Graceland. How not to become the next home

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • Regular checks can help you catch suspicious activity early.
  • Shred sensitive documents and be cautious with sharing personal information.
  • Provides protection against unforeseen claims or liens on your property.

In a bizarre twist of events, scammers recently attempted to sell Elvis Presley’s iconic Graceland estate. This audacious scheme highlights the growing threat of home title theft, a form of identity fraud where criminals transfer property ownership to themselves without the homeowner's knowledge. As unsettling as this may sound, there are several proactive steps homeowners can take to protect their properties from such fraudulent activities.

Home title theft, also known as deed fraud, occurs when criminals forge documents to transfer ownership of a property. This can lead to unauthorized sales, mortgages, or even foreclosure. The scam often involves identity theft, where the fraudster uses stolen personal information to make the forged documents appear legitimate.

How the Graceland Scam Unfolded

The Graceland scam involved a dark web scammer who claimed to have orchestrated the fraudulent sale of Elvis Presley’s home. The scammer used publicly accessible documents and targeted elderly individuals, primarily in California and Florida. The scam was eventually thwarted, but it serves as a stark reminder of the lengths to which these criminals will go.

Steps to Protect Your Home from Title Theft

1. Monitor Your Mail and Bills

One of the first signs of title theft can be missing bills or important mail. If you suddenly stop receiving your mortgage, tax, or utility bills, it could indicate that someone has changed your address without your knowledge. Keep a close eye on your mail and report any irregularities immediately.

2. Regularly Check Your Credit Report

Monitoring your credit report can help you catch suspicious activity early. Look for unfamiliar accounts or changes to existing accounts. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus annually. Regular checks can help you spot potential fraud before it escalates.

3. Secure Your Personal Information

Be cautious with your personal information. Shred documents containing sensitive information before discarding them, and avoid carrying your Social Security card or birth certificate with you. Only share personal information over the phone or online if you are certain of the recipient's identity.

4. Keep an Eye on Your Property

Regularly check the status of your property deed through local registries or the county recorder’s office. Some counties offer notification services that alert you to any changes in your property records. This proactive approach can help you catch fraudulent activity early.

5. Get Title Insurance

Title insurance can provide a safety net against title fraud. There are two types of title insurance: lender’s and owner’s. While lender’s title insurance is typically required by mortgage companies, owner’s title insurance is optional but highly recommended. It protects you from unforeseen claims or liens against your property.

6. Stay Educated on Common Scams

Understanding common scams can help you avoid falling victim to them. Scammers often pose as real estate agents or lenders to perform fraudulent transactions. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true and always verify the legitimacy of any offers or communications you receive.

7. Use a VPN and Shred Documents

Using a virtual private network (VPN) can help protect your online activities from hackers, especially when using public Wi-Fi. Additionally, shredding documents before discarding them can prevent dumpster-diving scammers from accessing your personal information.

What to Do If You Suspect Title Theft

If you suspect that your home title has been stolen, take immediate action:

Contact the Credit Bureaus: Place a fraud alert on your credit file to make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. Dispute any unauthorized accounts with the relevant bureaus.

File a Police Report: Report the theft to the police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This creates a paper trail that can be useful if you need to take legal action.

Notify Your Mortgage Lender: Inform your mortgage lender about the situation to prevent further financial harm and potential foreclosure.

Close Unauthorized Accounts: Contact lenders to close any accounts opened fraudulently in your name.

Retain All Records: Keep all correspondence and documents related to the theft. This will be helpful if you need to file a lawsuit or take other legal action.

The attempted sale of Graceland serves as a stark reminder of the growing threat of home title theft. By staying vigilant and taking proactive steps, homeowners can protect their properties from such fraudulent activities. Regularly monitoring your mail, credit report, and property records, securing your personal information, and obtaining title insurance are all effective measures to safeguard your home.

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