It’s probably the most important investment you’ll ever make, but you could be putting your house and your personal information at risk when you put a “For Sale” sign on your front lawn.
March is Fraud Awareness Month and to mark the occasion an advocacy group and insurance company placed “Stolen/Not For Sale” signs on front lawns to highlight the dangers of title and identity fraud.
First Canadian Title, the Consumers Council of Canada and title fraud victim Susan Lawrence came together for the event in Don Mills Thursday. When a house goes up for sale fraudsters will look up the owner’s information and use that important data to take out a fraudulent mortgage against the home.
Last month Lawrence won a lengthy court battle after her home was snatched out from under her nose by fraudsters in early 2006. Someone pretending to be Lawrence transferred the title of the home into their name and took out a $290,000 mortgage on the property.
“I think it started when I put a ‘For Sale’ sign on the lawn. Somebody forged a sale document and sold it to another person who got a mortgage for $300,000 and then disappeared with the money,” Lawrence explained.
She was forced out of the house and took her case to court but lost. The court ruled in favour of the mortgage company. But the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in her favour last month and declared Lawrence isn’t responsible for the $300,000 mortgage taken out on her house.
“Susan’s story is a perfect example of how – despite existing checks and balances in the system – crooks are able to use someone else’s identity to easily commit fraud,” said Bill Huzar, President of the Consumers Council of Canada.
“Not only do consumers need to be vigilant, but it’s also up to business, law enforcement and governments to join together in the fight against fraud.”
Lawrence didn’t have title insurance on her home so she had to pay all of the legal costs for her case, which totalled about $50,000. Insurance would’ve covered that expense. The coverage costs about $300 for the average home.
“Title insurance covers you for any loss you suffer because of fraud and we can get compensation back to you quicker than other means that are currently available,” Lorne Shuman of First Canadian Title explained.