Customers are reminded to follow best practices to avoid title fraud. The Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) is aware of two attempts at title fraud, one of which was successful, both involving fraudsters impersonating registered owners who live abroad.
In both cases, the property managers responsible for renting the homes took instructions from the fraudster from different phone numbers and email addresses than those authorized by the owners, and shared documents that enabled the fraudster to better impersonate the owners. Both properties were listed for sale by realtors who accepted a scanned copy of a forged passport to verify the identity of the supposed owner. In one case, an unsuspecting legal professional retained by the fraudster impersonating the registered owner also relied on a copy of the forged passport to verify the identity of the client, and assisted the fraudster in transferring the title to the property.
To avoid falling victim to these types of scams:
- Know Your Client – follow the identity verification requirements set out by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and your professional regulatory body. Forged South African passports were used in both cases, but false identity documents can originate out of any jurisdiction.
- Be suspicious of requests from clients who live abroad to change any of their communication methods, particularly if asked to change all communication methods at the same time.
- Be careful of clients who express urgency or provide unusual instructions, such as listing the property for below market value or instructing you to not use traditional marketing methods like Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or ‘for sale’ signs.
Legal and real estate professionals play a critical role in preventing title fraud. With your continued vigilance and compliance with professional standards, title to BC’s private real property will remain secure.