Mortgage fraud / ID theft victim. What next?
January 5, 2007 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I recently found out that I've been a victim of mortgage fraud. In short, someone stole my identity and took out a ~400k mortgage on a house in MA, in my name and with my credit. Has anyone out there been through this? What can I expect going forward?

They applied for multiple mortgages, and evidently one of them did go through, because my name is on a deed according to the police officer I'm dealing with. I've nipped the other loans I found out about(via forwarded mail from an old address of mine that the ID thieves were apparently using) in the bud and am working with the lenders and the police and the postal inspector, which will eventually result in a police report, ID theft affidavits, etc. I've taken all of the basic steps you're supposed to when you find out you're an ID theft victim. Locked down or changed my existing accounts, put fraud alerts in with the credit reporting agencies, temporarily forwarded my mail to a different address, called the attorney general's office, and so on.

But, I feel like I've done all I can do and now I'm highly paranoid and totally in the dark about what comes next or what else I should do from here on. The police aren't exactly being helpful about what I can expect, and hey, to be fair, it's not their job to be my advocate. But, they don't even know who the lender is on the loan that did go through, and I have no idea how to find out on my own, short of waiting for it to show up on my credit report or for bills to start coming. I feel like I need to be out ahead of this to document my innocence and limit my own liability, but I'm largely at the end of my amateur sleuthing abilities here.

The unknown liability is what I'm really scared of. I've done a quick crash-course on on mortgage fraud, but I can't find many stories about what happens to individual victims and what they did in the aftermath, and I have no idea if I'm ultimately on the hook for this loan / property or not. I'd really like to know what I'm looking at over the next few months as opposed to the immediate damage-control period. What the typical resolution-state looks like for someone who gets into this kind of mess. I'd also like to know whether I should be lawyering up(though finding a lawyer and finding money for a lawyer will not be easy at the moment, so I'm hesitant to do that until I know my position more fully) and what else I should be doing to cover my currently very exposed financial posterior. I'm an MA resident when it comes to legal issues. Single, 28, currently renting, have never applied for a mortgage.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
IANAL and you should probably talk to one at some point, but I'd imagine the liability is the banks. YOU did not apply for or receive a loan so they can hardly hold you liable for it. They should have done a better job of checking up on the applicant, IMHO.
posted by fshgrl at 7:28 PM on January 5, 2007

Have you checked your credit since this all went down? I'd say, immediately after contacting legal counsel, check your credit score and make sure that any discrepancies that might turn up are addressed and fixed.
posted by lekvar at 7:41 PM on January 5, 2007

I would definitely recommend a credit freeze rather than fraud warnings. Unless you apply for credit frequently, a freeze is what you want.

Most major newspapers have done stories on identity theft; maybe check out the archives of the Globe or similar papers and see what resources they have for you locally?

Sorry this happened and I expect while ultimately you're not on the hook it's going to take a lot of work to make everything whole again.

Remember to do EVERYTHING in writing and to make copies of ALL of your correspondence. Record important phone calls if you have to use the phone.
posted by maxwelton at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2007

IANAL, but I'm guessing there will be a bank or a title insurance company on the hook for this.
posted by oaf at 7:52 PM on January 5, 2007

Expect Hell. It will be a pain your ass for about two years. That is about how long it took for everything to clear off my credit when this happened to a group of us at work. A temp employee got in the accounting office after hours and took everyone's SS# and personal information on file.
You have done everything you can do. Of course you won't be held responsible for payment of anything but it will keep showing up on the radar for awhile to come. Further, once your numbers get out there they go from crook to crook who sells the numbers to the next guy. They go to Sears, Best Buy and cell providers etc, etc. The bitch is that you will be spending a lot of your time on the phone explaining and faxing over various documents. The good news is that it will slowly migrate to each and every compiler of credit scores and all will be well again but it is going to take awhile.
Make sure you stay on top of keeping your score as high as possible. Pay things off you might not of otherwise. If you have the means, go buy car, pay on it for three months then pay the thing off. It will help boost your score emmensely.
Look on the bright side... you caught it before you went to buy a house. We had a guy at work that was in the process of buying a new home when the theft occured, having just sold his, the blight on his credit score kept him for getting a new home for over three months.
You might also want to consider credit insurance/ identity theft insurance. I can't remember what it is called. I don't have it but a few folks at work looked into it. I am not sure how it works but it might be something you are now interested in.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:08 PM on January 5, 2007

I wish I had some good information to offer but I wanted to just say that I think its ridiculous that identity theft like this has not been adequately addressed by the government yet. That just seems ridiculous (of course, given our current administration's non-existent level of Give-a-damn, maybe its not so surprising).

I've read other stories about identity theft and you should be able to come through it alright but it will take a lot of time and a lot of patience.

Good luck and sorry to hear about the trouble!
posted by fenriq at 8:39 PM on January 5, 2007

Well, if you can get a copy of the recorded deed, it will show you the seller's name, the attorney's name who closed the loan, and the lender's name. It seems that Mass's Deed Registry is available to the common man online. I would look there just to see if you get lucky.

Your credit report should show every inquiry made on it. There are "soft inquries" and there are probably a lot of them -- mostly for credit cards. You want to look at the "hard" inquries. One of the loans they applied for had to go through, and one would think that one of the lenders listed who pulled credit granted the loan. I wouldn't try to winnow it down any at all -- just call every hard inquiry on your credit report. Usually if you tell them you are an ID theft victim, they will have a process in place to help you. You will more than likely be asked to do things to identify yourself as the real person, which freaks some people out because they're just had all that info stolen, but work with the banks. They don't want a fraudulent loan any more than you want to have one in your name.

Good luck. This will be a huge pain in the ass.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:03 PM on January 5, 2007

Having gone through something similar very recently, may I suggest Citibank's Identity Monitor Service? Their system did a great job for me of monitoring my report on a daily basis, so whenever some criminal applied for / was granted credit under my name I was able to get it nipped in the bud immediately.

I would add that even though each credit information agency (e.g. Experian) claims it will forward your fraud alert on to the other 2 agencies, I filed a report with each one anyway. Certainly made me feel better, at least.
posted by thumpasor at 9:15 PM on January 5, 2007

If you can't find the deed online, contact the registry directly. The open records laws should apply, and it's usually not a big deal to mail a copy.

If you have any trouble identifying a creditor, don't forget that tracking down records is what private investigators specialize in. Might be worth finding out how much it costs to have one do a search for other "debts" before they start appearing on your report.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:32 PM on January 5, 2007

My childhood neighbors recently discovered that their house (which they have owned for 40 years) has been "sold" twice. This newspaper article tells exactly your story but from the other victims' point of view.
posted by acorncup at 10:40 PM on January 5, 2007

freeze your credit report now.
then, if you're not familiar with passive-aggression, learn it. many agencies will expect you to jump through hoops and provide documentation. write them a short letter once (to put it on the record, keep a copy) and in the letter, advise them that you'll sue the bleeding shit out of them if they cause you the slightest grief whatsoever. ignore further communications unless legal process is served.
posted by bruce at 11:56 PM on January 5, 2007

>advise them that you'll sue the bleeding shit out of them

Of course, this kind of approach works only if you know what you are doing.
posted by megatherium at 5:59 AM on January 6, 2007

In order to save yourself MASSIVE amounts of headache, remember two things:

Save everything involved in this process, on paper, forever. Buy a fireproof small safe, and just make it your repository for everything that goes on in clearing this up. Get everything from everyone in writing. Basically, document this entire process to the level of insanity. And then keep it.

If you can possibly afford it, lawyer-up. It will put teeth to your requests to the various agencies if you do nothing more than pay a lawyer to write letters for you on their firms stationary. You do need to be able to follow through financially if necessary, but just a letter will be more convincing than one from you directly.
posted by griffey at 6:49 AM on January 6, 2007

Safe deposit box at the bank. The fireproof safes are only good up to a certain point, and it's relatively easy to exceed it once you get past the grease fire stage. It's not expensive for the little pile of papers you need to keep safe.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 12:57 PM on January 6, 2007

Hrm. Your name is on the deed?

Can you show up with the Sheriffs dept and evict whoever is currently there and take over the house? :)

I mean, on paper it seems like you could. Then sell the place & profit.
posted by drstein at 7:38 PM on January 7, 2007

I was wondering exactly about what drstein said. So, it's in your name, it must be yours. Of course, if you take posession, then you'll accept the liability.
posted by Goofyy at 5:40 AM on January 8, 2007

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