Am I the Victim of Property Title Fraud with a Secured Mortgage Loan that I Don’t Know About?
Q: Since my husband died 2 years ago, I’ve had to learn how to manage my finances on my own. I was at the bank last week and my banker asked me why the payments on the mortgage loan were falling behind. I told him our mortgage was paid off over 15 years ago and I didn’t recall taking out a secured loan or mortgage. He said he would look into it, what should I do?
A: The changes we face when our spouse passes away are life-altering. The following weeks and months can feel like a blur as we deal with settling the estate and adjust to living without our loved one. Budgeting on our own can also be very different. Many surviving spouses are left in an uncertain financial situation, sometimes due to a lack of income, but often because they need to learn how to manage their affairs on their own.
Get More Information and Decide Who to Trust
During this period of uncertainty, we rely on trusted family, friends and professionals to see us through. Unfortunately, there might be those who become aware of our vulnerability and attempt to exploit it for their own gain. Before jumping to such a conclusion, take steps to get more facts.
Talk to Your Bank to Find Out More About the Mortgage Loan
Make another appointment at your bank and speak to the branch manager. Ask for more information about the mortgage loan. The bank will have documentation on file. Verify if it is your signature on the page or not. You might also want to take copies along. Hopefully there’s been a mistake and everything will be sorted out before you leave.
Contact a Lawyer, Land Titles Office and the Police If You Are the Victim of Property Title Fraud
Depending on the outcome of your meeting at the bank, you may need to work with their fraud department or hire a lawyer who specializes in real estate transactions and who is also knowledgeable about property title fraud.
The lawyer will find out more from your bank and the land titles office to see if someone registered a charge against your property. They may also help you file a police report if you are indeed the victim of fraud.
Obtain a Free Copy of Your Credit Report, Especially If You Might Be a Victim of Identity Theft
It would also be wise to contact the two credit bureau companies in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, and get a free copy of your credit report. Let them know them that you are a potential victim of identity theft.
Track Your Bills and Bank Accounts Carefully Until You Know More
While this is all being sorted out, keep very close track of your money and finances. Check your bank account statements regularly and make sure that your investment accounts are as they should be.
Ensure that you are receiving all of your statements and bills in the mail. It might be worth signing up for paperless billing and statements, if you’re comfortable accessing the information online.
Once you have the facts, you’ll know if you really owe the money or not.