How to steal a house

Stealing a house sounds like a difficult task, but recent scams show us it’s actually frighteningly easy. 

Driving the news: Several organized crime groups have orchestrated at least 30 acts of title fraud in the Greater Toronto Area, where someone impersonates a property owner to sell or mortgage a property they don’t own. 

How does it happen? 

The groups use public records to scope out a target, typically homeowners without mortgages. From there, they create fake IDs, hire stand-ins to pose as owners or tenants to gain access, put up a listing for the property, and then sell it to the first reasonable bidder. 

  • In one case last year, thieves gained access to a vacant Toronto condo and sold it for $970,000 with the help of a listing than included professionally-shot photos

The money from the sale is often exchanged into cryptocurrency or gold, then shipped out of the country, making it extremely difficult to track the whereabouts of the ill-gotten gains. 

Why it matters: With title and mortgage fraud on the rise and fraudsters becoming more sophisticated, protections for homeowners might become harder to come by. One title insurer told CBC he’s worried about the sustainability of providing insurance that would protect against these scams, in the face of mounting claims.