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How can we prevent title fraud?


Innocent homeowners and buyers are under attack from thieves looking to steal equity from Canadian homes. For Daniela DeTommaso, President of FCT, protecting consumers means detecting title fraud, and preventing it before it ever happens. That’s no small task: in an increasingly digital real estate market, fraud prevention takes expertise as well as the latest in identity-verifying tech.

Fraud still relies on the human factor

“We don’t live at a time where we know everybody we deal with,” said Daniela in an industry panel on title fraud earlier this year. “We now have a broader network and oftentimes, the first time we meet with people that we’re dealing with […] is in the course of transactions.”

That lack of familiarity creates opportunities for fraudsters, who benefit from transactions with as little contact with real estate professionals as possible. The problem is, that’s what honest buyers and sellers often want, too. How do real estate professionals tell the difference?

Daniela urged professionals to trust their instincts when dealing with customers. “It’s really important that you follow your gut. If you don’t know your customer, make sure that [you’re] asking for additional information, asking more questions.”

Asking clients follow-up questions about themselves and the property is a fraud prevention best practice. Even friendly questions can expose inconsistencies in a fraudster’s story, if their answers don’t match the information you have, or details they provided.

Many fraudsters count on professionals not wanting to seem suspicious of a client, or not feeling comfortable asking personal questions. In general, fraudsters usually prefer to keep the professionals involved in the deal at arm’s length when they can. New practices, like remote transactions, have made this much easier.


New advances mean risk as well as protection

“COVID accelerated the rate and the opportunity for identity theft and fraud generally,” said Daniela. “Given that we were operating in a virtual world, it made it easier for frauds to happen.”

“We’re also finding out that people live out loud. We’re all on social media, we’re posting every moment of our day, and this again provides fraudsters access to information.”

That information can be invaluable to fraudsters: they can use it to learn when their target is away from their property, as well as help make their story and fake ID more credible.

“We’ve never seen the sophistication in the duplication of these documents that we’re seeing as of late,” Daniela said. Some fraudsters have even been able to replicate security features on ID, like holographic elements, but FCT’s fraud prevention experts have access to sophisticated tools as well.


How can we protect consumers?

“We all have a role to play in [fraud] prevention,” said Daniela. “I would love to see better access to third party technology that provides [real estate professionals] with a deeper safeguard against these types of things.” New ID verification software lets professionals quickly, conveniently and securely verify that their clients’ identification is legitimate, and that they are who they say they are.

New technology can bring new risks, but Daniela remains focused on protecting users. “I would say the biggest thing is: keep your private information private,” she said. The best ID verification tools for protecting consumers will be the ones that don’t retain private user information, which could be compromised in the event of a breach.

Learn more about how FCT is evolving to help protect your clients, as well as their data.


Insurance by FCT Insurance Company Ltd. Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited. The services company does not provide insurance products. This material is intended to provide general information only. For specific coverage and exclusions, refer to the applicable policy. Copies are available upon request. Some products/services may vary by province. Prices and products/services offered are subject to change without notice.


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