Dealing with Theft of Documents: Deeds, Business Records, Client Work Products and More

Document theft can be worse than cash theft. Why? There’s a lot more risk involved and potential long-term consequences. In short, it’s messy. If you experience deed theft, your entire property and financial portfolio could be negatively impacted. Use the following quick guide to deed theft to educate yourself about this type of scam and learn how to avoid it.

What is document theft?

Document theft involves forging deeds, business records or client work products for financial gain. The criminals don’t usually physically steal anything. Instead, they forge documents that allow them to “sell” a property or take out a loan against it.

When criminals get their hands on your business records of client work products, a similar scenario occurs. This act is a type of business identity theft, in that the criminals pretend to have legitimate access to documentation but are actually stealing the information to commit fraud.

How can document theft occur?

There are several scams that thieves can attempt in an effort to commit document theft:

  • Refinancing: If a criminal commits deed theft, they may refinance the mortgage on a property. They will simply cash out any equity built up in the property and run off with the funds. The new mortgage will remain unpaid, which results in possible foreclosure, which the true owner is now responsible for.
  • HELOC: Deed theft can also allow criminals to open a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is another method to get their hands on the equity of the home. Again, they walk away with the cash and never repay the loan.
  • Vacant property: Unoccupied homes or rental properties are often targeted by deed theft. The criminals forge the deed and “sell” the home that they have no legitimate claim to, unbeknownst to the true owner (and the buyer).
  • Crisis sale: Criminals may commit document theft to scam property owners who are in distress. The owners believe they are simply refinancing the property to relieve financial pressure, but the criminal writes up the documentation as a sale and transfers ownership of the property to himself.

How can you protect yourself from document theft?

Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your property:

  • Watch for missing documents: If you suddenly stop receiving normal bills for the property, this is a red flag that you may be the victim of document theft. Criminals may be receiving your bills instead, as part of a deed theft scam.
  • Watch your credit report: Request a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting companies. Look over your report regularly to identify any unapproved transactions or accounts.
  • Watch your title: Always have title insurance in place to protect against deed theft. You may want to consider enrolling in title protection services to further increase your coverage.

Protect your documents

If you’re concerned about document theft, contact the team at Medina & Company Consulting. Our forensic accounting firm specializes in assisting companies, corporations and individuals with matters involving exposure both big and small. Contact us today at 650-697-3900 to discover how we can help you recover from document theft.