Protect Yourself From Property Scams
If you watch late-night TV, you may have seen infomercials about how to protect yourself from scammers who transfer title to your property into their name, then take out a loan–all behind your back–leaving you with the unenviable task of spending a lot of money, time, effort and endless headaches to get your property problem solved. For only $20/month, the infomercials offer to keep an eye on your home’s title & notify you if they see anything suspicious. So what’s a homeowner to do?
First, you can check your title for free by going to your County Clerk & Recorder’s office as often as you wish. All three foothills counties offer online access to their Recorder’s records–call your county to get specific directions on how to view your property’s title yourself.
Next, when you purchase property, be as specific as possible on how title is held. Scammers look for common names, like Bob Smith, because they are easier to duplicate. The more unusual the name, the less likelihood scammers will attack. Even Bob Smith could be more specific by titling property as Robert D. Smith, Jr. as appropriate.
Fortunately, Colorado uses Trust Deeds instead of mortgages to record liens, which means an extra set of eyes reviews any liens that are recorded. The Public Trustee’s office looks for sloppy paperwork, incorrect notarizations or other hints that the lien to be recorded might not be legitimate. While this isn’t foolproof, it may deter some scammers from plying their tricks in our state in the first place.
Further, assuming the scammers want to change title from your name and obtain a loan from a mainstream lender, most lenders look askance at a ‘cash out refinance’ (where the borrower takes the loan proceeds in cash) within six months after any change in title, so scammers would need to wait six months after stealing your title to get cash from a loan.
None of this is foolproof and even the infomercials don’t seem to offer a guarantee that you won’t get scammed. But the likelihood of foothills homeowners getting scammed appears to be slim.