Given recent news stories in regards to the unauthorized sale of properties arising from identity theft, it’s timely to ask: “How do real estate agents confirm the identity of buyers and sellers?”
Identity theft is at all times a serious crime, but when it occurs during an actual estate transaction, it’s much more alarming as someone’s house is at stake and the sum of money involved is so large.
Fraud of this sort, often known as title fraud, is when someone uses fake or stolen documents to transfer ownership of a house they don’t own to their name, after which tries to sell the property or apply for a mortgage on it.
If the fraud is successful and they can get the cash, they disappear and the homeowner is left with no home or with a mortgage they didn’t authorize.
Real estate agents are required by law to substantiate that the parties in a transaction are who they are saying they’re.
They need to follow the rules set out and overseen by the Financial Transactions and Reports Evaluation Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC. For more information visit FINTRAC’s website.
Probably the most common approach to verifying an individual’s identity is through the use of a process to be certain that the government-issued photo identification presented is valid and checking that the photo looks like the person presenting it.
Real estate agents must even be vigilant for anything that seems suspicious and check public land registry information to substantiate ownership of the house.
Real estate agents are to be wary of any inconsistencies, similar to misspellings and errors when the client or seller writes their name and email address. In the event that they notice discrepancies, they’re expected to ask followup questions, to guarantee themselves of the person’s identity. For instance, as a part of the selling process, they might typically inquire about many elements of the property and will search for inconsistencies, inaccurate or unknown information in regards to the property.
While agents are required to take steps to assist prevent identity theft, you, as a consumer, may also take certain practical steps to guard your identity by:
- Asking an actual estate lawyer in regards to the advantages of title insurance and the way to obtain it
- Frequently reviewing your bank card and other financial statements
- Reviewing and verifying the data in your credit report every year
- Listening to your billing cycles and contacting customer support in case your bills don’t arrive on time or you notice anything odd
- Never sharing your personal or financial information by phone, email or online, unless you initiated the conversation
- Shredding all financial documents before you throw them out.
In the event you think your identity may need been stolen, file a report along with your local police service, contact your financial institution, bank card company, each national credit bureaus (Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada), and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Anyone with evidence of an identity theft crime involving the buying or selling of a property in Ontario should contact the Real Estate Council of Ontario.
If you may have a matter for Joe in regards to the home buying or selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org