March being the Fraud Prevention Month, always contains a flurry of social media postings of articles and stories around Fraud. It is an excellent way for us to know what fraudsters are doing out in the market and be aware of ways to prevent ourselves from defraud. But with the end of March, it doesn’t mean we can put away our worries for another year. Fraud Prevention Month ends in March, not Fraud. The fraudsters are out there year round and getting increasingly sophisticated in their frauds. It is imperative that we remain vigilant year round.

Title insurance is essential but is not a complete answer
Title insurance is one excellent way to protect yourself against fraud. While there isn’t coverage for financial fraud, fraud against title or impersonation of a borrower is covered. However, when someone pretending to be the owner of a property and is able to get access (often because there is a renter, there is construction going on at the property or long absences of the homeowner) lenders can be duped – Title insurance is not a complete answer.

You can’t be willfully blind to the information that you are getting from your borrowers to ensure that they are who they say they are. Your lawyer or notary needs to be checking IDs carefully to ensure it is legitimate and you as a lender need to be asking questions and doing credit checks to ensure the person who says they are the owner knows the information that the true owner of the property knows. Companies like Equifax and TransUnion have services that can ask questions of your borrower to ensure they know bank accounts, credit card and other information about the true owner. If they can’t answer those basic questions, you don’t want to lend to them, with or without Title insurance. Nowadays, Title insurance companies are now doing checks on some of these borrowers and I believe there should be increasing checks that you and we should be conducting.

Fraud is on the rise and you need to be cautious
US Title insurance companies are seeing rapidly increasing amounts of frauds being perpetrated. Increasingly, fraudsters are taking control of lawyers, lenders, borrowers emails and redirecting funds. They are getting real ID from provincial agencies by producing information about the owner, at some level, even these checks against IDs are not foolproof. We don’t need to become paranoid and freeze up the whole market but we need to be aware and if it smells foul, there is probably something wrong with the deal. You need to run from it or at least do more due diligence before signing over those funds.

With or without title insurance, no one wants or needs to be embroiled in a fraud mess trying to prove what information all parties had or provided and who these people truly were. While Spring brings the hope of sun, flowers and being outdoors for a change, don’t take your eyes off the game. We can work together and beat these criminals; we just need to work together as a team to do so.

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