Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Legal Thriller-Type Scam:: Blend of Identity Theft and Home Theft

--New Con Game can Rob You of your Home--Right out from Under

If you only wish to fill out your life by going to funerals and playing Bridge, then die of baldness, chances are you won't be victimized by scams. That's the conventional thinking. Everybody else--at one time or another--will be, this thought process continues.

Looks like, now, things, they are achangin', with some of these "conventional wisdoms" flying right out the window. Replaced by new schemes, new twists--some so wild and incomprehensible that all norms of clearly understandable description would not even be possible. In groping for logic about all you could come up with would be something like: They would make a man without religion look like a fish without a bicycle.

It appears that Larrimer's Constant is in motion: What the world needs is a damn good plague. The con artists are trying to give us the equivalent: Wide scale theft of our homes--right from under our own noses.

This scam is so vicious, so devious, so big, it could conceivably hit you like a bolt out of the blue, without your having done anything to encourage it, or even be aware of it. This scam will ensnare suckers and the gullible, as well as the wary and guarded alike--reel them all into its net. It's the identity theft / mortgage combination--one put together for a specific reason: to steal your house. It is a combination over which you have virtually no defense, no way to fight back.

How is this pulled off? The scam artist proceeds through this progression of Steps:

Step 1: Pick a house to steal, empty or occupied. Say it's yours. There is no safety in numbers, or anything else.

Step 2: Assume your identity. Assemble all the necessary data off the internet and from other black market sources. The creation of false IDs, social security cards, credit cards, etc., follows. Yours. The greatest productive force is human selfishness, a parable con artists everywhere universally recognize, and use as motivation to proceed.

Step 3: Pick up at any office supply store all the forms--readily available--that they need to transfer property.

Step 4: Then file their deed, after forging your signature and using the fake IDs and viola, your house is now theirs. The cacophonous sounds of geese in mating season have now been created long enough for them to sell it, run off with the money and leave all identity / true ownership problems for you to correct, once the noise level abates.

What do you plant to get a seedless watermelon or grape?

Sadly, life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. It's looking like the burden of proof is on you, to prove that all the new paperwork is fraudulent. Double sadly, Farber's First Law--Give him an inch and he will screw you--doesn't even apply.
Under the umbrella of this con game you can be defrauded out of your own home without even knowing what hit you. You don't even have to be gullible. Only vulnerable.

Hindsight is the only exact science. Thus, you have no alternative but to look back on all legal documents that constitute your ownership rights, and shore them up, one-by-one, so that they can withstand any legal test they are put to. Do this before anything goes afoul. Then, turn to Fingle's Rule for assurance: Do not believe in miracles, rely on them.


Melvin J said...

Hi Jack. Brilliant article again. Your article reminded me of a case that happened with a friend of mine where the builder sold the same apartment to two different families and ran away with the money. The two innocent families were left to fight it out amongst themselves on who is the rightful owner of the property. It was a real mess.

The Muse said...

What will they think of next?

I saw a report on the news about foreclosed homes. People are taking over these houses, without going through the bank, and renting or selling them to unsuspecting people.

Sometimes the bank does not find out for months. It's crazy.

I wonder if the buyers ever heard of title searches? Perhaps they were so desperate to get into the house they did not care how shady the deal seemed.

I hope no one tries to steal my home out from under me. Identity theft is certianly scary. You can never be too cautious.

Take care!

Jack Payne said...

Melvin, double sales are becoming more and more common, sometimes even triple sales of the same property. Good observation. I probably should have included something along this line in the article.

Yes, Muse, you would think more people would have heard of title searches, wouldn't you? That would cut through so much of this, simplify the whole thing considerably.

Bern said...

Maybe if these forms weren't so readily available in office supply stores this scam wouldn't go so far.

Earl T. Clydson said...

I've got to jump in here, this hits so close to home. This is exactly what happened to a business associate of mine. What a Christmas gift. He had his one million dollar home stolen right out from under him. Your analogy of clacking geese is good, Jack. The noise is still so great he's still fighting it to prove he's the rightful owner while the bad guys got away with a big bunch of money under this noisey cover. His wife had some kind of nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. This is one of the most vicious scams I have ever heard of, and it looks like you're right, there is no defense against it.

Ariel J said...

I would think there would be some restrictions on those forms, Bern.
To Melvin and Earl I am so sorry to hear about your friends. I hope things work out for them.

Jack Payne said...

I think restricting sales would not be advisable, Bern. But, how to trace, that's another possibility. Perhaps some kind of serial numbering (something like gun registration) might these forms could be traced back to the buyers of the forms.

That's terrible, about your friend, Earl. You've put one of these horror stories up front: an actual example. My heart goes out to this friend of yours, and, particularly, his poor wife, who had an actual health-threatening reaction from it. Maybe the way to go is something along the line I suggested above. Something like encryption, password access--highly personalized protectors along this line.

Dee said...

Gosh Jack this one is devious. I wonder how this would work in my jurisdiction. Here titles are issued in duplicate (made of a specific type of paper).

The original is always kept at the land agency and the owner keeps the duplicate. In order to effect the transfer the duplicate must accompany the transfer to the agency and the transfer is endorsed on both the original and duplicate.

Darn it, these identity scams should cause the authorities to impose stricter requirements to combat this corruption of the obviously corruptible system.

Jack Payne said...

I forgot to mention my further thoughts on a defense for this sort of scam. It goes back to dating, that function that the legal system holds in such high regard. About the only sound defense is to go back over all pertinent documents and bring out the various filing dates. Usually a pattern of logical progression can be put together this way. It is probably the best way to prove your position--by earlier dating--while disproving the scam artist's pattern, which has to have missed some documents, or have an inconsistent pattern in some way.

Dee said...

Isn't it a real conundrum when the burden of proof shifts to the victim to prove his innocence?

We should all start using fake names, reserving our real ones for official documents. Jeez!

julia said...

Jack, I like this give and take with Dee. She sounds like a lawyer. I don't know about you, but you seem to know the law like the back of your hand. After reading your book and the exploits of Steve Draves, I can only think, only a lawyer could write this, with all these scams, and all of them legal. How else? No wonder your book is so popular with lawyers and law libraries. Come on now, Jack, own up, besides being a brilliant writer, what are you?

Terry said...

Jack, you and Dee must be great minds coming together. Did you notice the timing on your earlier posts? was 1:31 PM, on the same dot...similar thinking at the same time.

Angela said...

I like, then die of baldness. I never knew anyone ever died of baldness.

Jack Payne said...

It sounds like Jamaica has a better handle on how to protect home owners than does the U.S. of A., Dee. The F.B.I. is plenty worried about this one, and has put out several alerts on it, testament to not having very good control. Made on a specific kind of paper, huh? Sounds like some kind of anti-counterfeiting scheme. Oh, well, if it works...that's all that counts.

Dee is a lawyer, Julia, who could, no doubt, run rings around me on the specifics and fine points of law. I'm an "ersatz" (fake) lawyer...took every pre-law class I could in college, then dropped the plan to bercome a lawyer at the last minute and shifted to Business Administration (minor in commercial journalism). By the time I hit my senior year I was so broke that I didn't have much choice. My hard-working wife took me as a dependent on her income tax return. Very embarrassing. Oh, well, it all worked out to my satisfaction.

Ione Hesber said...

I like, hindsight is the only exact science. How true.

Gene Kranik said...

Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans. That gets my vote.

Dee said...

Oh Lord I've been outed. Sometimes though I wish I could be at least an ersatz (love that word)legal thriller author. Jack's writing is great!

I can't help myself I keep coming back for more.

Da Old Man said...

Jack, I have a foolproof plan. I live in my van, down by the river.

I find it sad that these scammers are so intelligent and use their gift for evil.

Ora said...

How about invisible ink? Would a simple solution like this work?

Jack Payne said...

Welcome back for the curtain call, Dee. You're always welcome. Sorry I blew your cover.

You're right, Old Man, yours is a foolproof plan.

Invisible ink has been out of fashion for a number of years, Ora. Don't know why. It appears to be a good solution to a lot of problems. Maybe it should come back for consideration.

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Swubird said...

Con Man:

In my opinion this is the scariest con you've posted so far. I had no idea that it was so easy to steal a house, but I see the logic. Assume the identity, transfer the title, and then either sell or refinance - what a nightmare.

Thanks for this enlightening episode.

HAve a nice day.

Barry said...

I have heard of variations on this scam before - but that they do it with houses "on the market", all else the same as you explained.

Houses on the market make the bad paperwork even more believeable.

Diane Scott said...

Hi Jack! Been a while since I visited, but appreciated this information greatly.

Question: If someone were to assume your identity, yet you have living relatives and friends who know YOU are you, how could they get away with this?

In the thriller movies, it's the person minus anyone that's usually targeted.

Just wondering outloud...

Jack Payne said...

Swu, you are 100% right. The home is usually the centerpiece and biggest ticket item of a person's estate. Hence, this is scary, indeed, when it hits so close to (pun intended) home.

Yes, Barry, the variations in this scheme are many. You are right. I only touched on the main thrust of it in this piece.

Diane, of course, in the long run, your true identity is easily provable. But, when dealing with "identity theft" as currently defined, we're talking about paper identity thievery. It's a fake it, and take the money and run thing--BEFORE there's any time to get into personal verifications of identity. Perhaps, somewhere along the line photo IDs will play a bigger role--which would move proof of identity much furthe up-front, timewise. Trouble here is Civil Libertarians, the A.C.L.U. and such, always bitterly fight this approach, on "privacy" grounds.

Lily Boynton said...

Gosh, criminals are becoming more and more creative, don't they? The story reminds me of a news from local TV the other night. There's this guy who put an ad of renting the house that doesn't belong to him on Craiglists, with the pictures of the house taken from Google! Is that something?

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