Snowbirds: Is Your Home at Greater Risk for "Home Profiling" by a Real Estate Fraudster?

TORONTO, Dec. 2, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Did you know that the very attributes of a snowbirds' home: mortgage freedom, extended owner absences and renting your home are the same attributes that make your home a target for real estate fraud? Take the FCT quiz to see if your home is at risk and consider whether to "Retire Your Home."

FCT's "Retire Your Home" quiz:

  1. Are you mortgage-free?
  2. Are you a snowbird?
  3. Is your home vacant for extended periods of time?
  4. Do you rent?
  5. Are you planning to do any of the above in your retirement?
  6. Have you been a victim of identity theft? Or are you worried about identity theft?

If you answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, you should consider strategies to securely "Retire Your Home."

"Retire Your Home" encourages those engaged in retirement planning discussions to think about "what their home is doing during their retirement" – and include title insurance in these discussions.

Snowbirds' and retirees' homes have many of the common traits in 'home profiling' by a real estate fraudster. At the same time, those who purchased a home more than 10 years ago are the least likely to be protected by title insurance. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in North America and it can happen to anyone. Identity theft and forgery are two ways fraudsters pretend to be homeowners to obtain one or more mortgages on the property and then walk away with the cash.

"Two years ago, we began receiving collection notices to an unknown name at our address. As returning all earlier mail marked "addressee unknown" hadn't worked, my husband hand-delivered the envelopes to the relevant banks with explanations. Regardless, a collection agency began to call. It took a lot of talking to convince the investigator that we had no connection to this, now obvious, fraudster. Once convinced, this knowledgeable gentleman encouraged us to report the situation to the police. He, and the police, educated us about identity theft, and how close we had been.

Our home is a significant part of our retirement plan, yet could so easily have been the target for the fraud. So we bought an FCT Title Fraud Protection policy and now we know that our home is secure for our retirement."

Anne Swarbrick, Burlington, Ontario

Fraud is very real. Estimates of real estate fraud range from $400 million to $1.5 billion annually. On suspicion of fraud, FCT alone declined to insure a mortgage twice a week in 2013 with an average value of $360,000.

"The biggest part of most Canadian's nest egg is their home, so what it is doing during your retirement is an important question to ask. Some of the benefits we look forward to in our retirement- mortgage freedom, extended travel, snowbird lifestyle, renting our home are common elements in the "home profiling" done by real estate fraudsters."

"Title insurance for a snowbird's home should be part of insurance considerations for a secure retirement plan, just like life and health insurance," said Lori Sartor, FCT's VP Residential Solutions.

FCT, Canada's largest provider of title insurance has launched "Retire Your Home" to raise awareness about the increased risk of real estate fraud on many of the common traits of a snowbird's and retiree's home. www.RetireYourHome.ca provides examples, information and tips about retiring your home securely including a post from the Mayor of a small town in Saskatchewan whose home was the target of a fraudulent sale in February 2014, and the 2013 Law Times article about the impersonation of an 80-year old woman in an attempt to obtain a $425,000 mortgage on her mortgage-free home in Mississauga.

The best protection against the negative consequences of real estate fraud is title insurance. FCT offers Title Fraud Protection+ policies for those interested in the long term security of their home's retirement.

For more information e-mail us at info@RetireYourHome.ca or call 1.877.888.1153 for immediate answers.

About FCT

Founded in 1991, the FCT group of companies is based in Oakville, Ontario, and has over 800 employees across the country. The group provides industry-leading title insurance, default solutions and other real-estate-related products and services to approximately 1,250 lenders, 43,000 legal professionals and 5,000 recovery professionals, as well as real estate agents, mortgage brokers and builders, nationwide.

† The FCT group of companies includes FCT Insurance Company Ltd. which provides title and valuation insurance by FCT Insurance Company Ltd., with the exception of commercial policies, which are provided jointly by FCT Insurance Company Ltd. and First American Title Insurance Company. Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited.

CONTACT: Call 1.800.307.0370 in Canada and ask for Wendy Rinella, or e-mail info@RetireYourHome.caSource: First Canadian Title