How to Prevent Mortgage Fraud and Identity Theft
Examples of Fraud
- Intentional deception resulting in injury, harm and/or loss to another person
- Imposter: a person who makes deceitful pretenses
- Deception made for personal gain
- Fraudulent conversion and obtaining money or property by false pretenses
How Can I Tell if I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?
Review the reports carefully
- Look for inquiries from companies that you haven’t requested products or credit
- Look for inconsistencies in your personal information (address, employment, debts, judgments or collections accounts)
Stay alert for other signs of identity theft or mortgage fraud:
- Failing to receive bills or other mail. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover their tracks. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time
- Receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for
- Failure to receive credit cards you did apply for
- Being denied credit, or being offered less favourable credit terms, like a high-interest rate, for no apparent reason
- Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy
- Being approached with an offer to make quick money in real estate
- Being offered money to use your name and credit information to apply for a mortgage or other credit
Identity thieves can wreak havoc on your personal finances. However, there are things you can do to take control of the situation.
- If an identity thief steals your mail to try obtain new credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers and tax information or falsified change-of-address forms, the person has committed a crime. Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the police, local postal inspector and the credit reporting bureaus (contact information below).
- If an identity thief has changed the billing address on an existing credit card account, close the account. When you open a new account, ask that a password is used before any inquiries or changes can be made on the account. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, the last four digits of your SIN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. Avoid using the same information and numbers when you create a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
- If you believe an identity thief may have accessed your bank accounts or ATM card, close the accounts immediately. If your cheques have been stolen or misused, stop payment. If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the card and obtain another with a new PIN.
- If an identity thief has established new phone or wireless service in your name and is making unauthorized calls that appear to come from, and are billed to, your cell phone, contact your service provider immediately to cancel the account and calling card. Ask for new account numbers and new PINs. Do the same thing if someone is using your calling card and PIN.
- If you suspect someone is obtaining a fraudulent mortgage on your property, obtain the title information from your provincial or local government. You can also request to have a fraud alert placed on the title in some offices.
Keep Your Information Secure
- Don’t give out any personal information unless you know who you are dealing with, how it will be used and if it will be shared with anyone
- Do not give out personal information on the phone or internet unless you know who you are dealing with
- Carry minimal information or identification in your wallet
- Inspect your credit reports on a regular basis. These can be provided free of charge by the credit reporting agencies
- Inspect your financial or bank statements or for inconsistencies or unknown charges
- Be alert to your billing cycles and when bills or mail does not arrive
- Protect the integrity of your mail. Make deliveries to and from the mail slots in person. Access your mail daily
- Shred financial or identification documents before discarding them
Tips to Protect You From Mortgage Fraud While Looking to Purchase a Home
- Rely on the experience of a trusted real estate expert who is accredited and licensed to work in your area. Choose someone who can provide trusted referrals and check them!
- In addition to above, consult local public websites on real estate listings in the area where the property is located.
- Compare prices, sizes, locations etc.
- Ask for a copy of the land title at your local registry office. Look for frequent transfers, and transfers of increasingly higher values.
- Review the possibility of having the property appraised and inspected.
- Beware of a real estate agent or broker having financial or ownership interest in the property.
- If there are claims of professional renovations or upgrades, ask to see the receipts.
- When a deposit is required, ensure the funds are held in trust with the vendor’s lawyer, not directly to the vendor.
Be aware of:
- Someone who encourages you to include false information on your mortgage application
- Sign blank applications or where there are blank fields
- If the mortgage amount is significantly higher than the property value or price on the offer to purchase
- If assuming a mortgage, that the mortgage has not significantly increased in values (been refinanced) over a relatively short period of time
Tips to Protect You From Mortgage Fraud at Closing
- Review and make sure the name on the application is the same as your primary source of identification.
- Know and understand the terms of the mortgage you are signing. Compare it to the loan information you received at origination. Compare the address, interest rate, all the terms and conditions you agreed to
- Check the final application for accuracy and personal information
- Never sign any documents that are blank or contain blanks
- Know and understand what you are signing. If you have questions, ASK. If you are still suspicious, DO NOT SIGN the documents.
- Bring in a witness, someone you know and trust
- Use a lawyer who you know and trust. Be suspicious if you are asked to use a different lawyer for closing or not allowed to use yours.
- Check the “statement of affairs” and the “cost of borrowing disclosure” and understand any additional fees or where the funds are going. Ask questions if you are not sure of any charges or fees.
- If you are obtaining title insurance or any other type of insurance being prepared by the law firm, obtain a policy or reference number and follow up with the insurer.
If you think your identity may have been stolen or believe you are a victim of mortgage fraud, follow these basic steps:
- Contact www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca at 1-888-495-8501 and/or visit their website to download a copy of the identity victim statement. It’s a helpful tool to help you communicate with the credit bureau reporting agencies, creditors, and police alike.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the major credit bureaus. Tell them to flag your file with a fraud alert. Also, ask them to include a statement that creditors must get your permission before opening any new accounts in your name
- Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports. Credit bureaus must give you a free copy of your report if it is inaccurate due to fraud. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or changes made to your existing accounts without your knowledge. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to check that your corrections and changes have been made, and to make sure there is no new fraudulent activity.
- The two main credit bureaus you need to contact are Equifax and TransUnion. Here is their contact information, including a link to their websites:
- Equifax 514-493-2314 or 1-800-465-7166 www.equifax.com/EFX_Canada
- Trans Union 866-525-0262 or 905-525-0262 www.transunion.ca/ca
- If any accounts have been tampered with or opened fraudulently, you must also contact the creditors. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department. Follow up with them in writing.
- If you believe someone may be using your SIN, please visit the Government of Canada Web site at www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/sin/fraud/fraud.shtml
- Finally, file a report with your local police and/or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Keep a copy in case your creditors need proof of the crime
- In most cases, you should be able to resolve your identity theft problems by taking the steps outlined here. But be aware that identity theft or related credit problems may happen again. Stay alert to new signs of identity theft and if you notice anything suspicious get in touch with the company or creditor that’s involved immediately. Follow up in writing.
- Order a copy of your credit report from the credit bureaus every year to check on their accuracy and to make sure they only include debts and loans you’ve incurred. This could be very important if you’re considering a major purchase, such as a house. A credit reporting agency may charge you for a copy of your report.
Information provided by Genworth Financial Canada