Title Deed Fraud -The Real Risk and How to Safeguard Against It

Admin May 06, 2022

A Title Deed is the most important document as far as property ownership is concerned. It is a legal document which confirms or proves that one is the owner of a property after having been transferred into their name. It contains the details of the property such as the full name of the owner/s; date of purchase, the size, etc. 

Title deeds world over are considered the most secure and safest way of property ownership. However, due to technology advancements and an increase in crime syndicates, title deed fraud has been on the increase in the country. The issue has been topical for more than a decade now and continues to affect property owners up to this day.

Title deed fraud occurs when someone steals your identity and takes title to your property and sells it or borrows against it leaving you in debt. The fraud has been happening for decades, most common with vacant properties and deceased estates. Title deed fraud is now on the increase due to the increase in absent owners with most of the targeted people being outside the country.


How does it happen?

Fraudsters obtain a copy of your title deed from the deeds office or through any other means. Since the title deed consists of the name of the property owner, and their national identity number, they then use these details to create fake national identity card which is then produced to confirm the fraudster as the original owner during the sale of the property or in application for a mortgage.

When the estate agents and the lawyers do their due diligence, the details of the title deed and the  identification details will of course then match and the transaction will obviously then go ahead. The fraudster will then receive the proceeds of the transaction and have the property transferred to a new owner. 

This is done without the owner of the property even knowing. Sometimes the process is supported or enhanced by syndicates of bogus and fraudulent estate agents, lawyers and deeds office and registrar general staffers.


Who is at high risk?

If you are a property owner, you are more at risk of title deed fraud if your property is left vacant for a long period, your property is currently leased out or if you live abroad and your property is not leveraged.

We encourage property owners to regularly check with the deeds office if their properties are still in their names to detect deed fraud and to keep original copies of the title deed as secure as possible to avoid access from fraudsters.

Buyers should be cautious when buying property by verifying the authenticity of the sellers and the documents involved before making any transactions.

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