Don’t let someone steal your house. Whitman Legal Solutions LLC

Erica Morini, a Jewish-Austrian violinist born in 1904, was one of the greatest female violinists of all time. Morini, who was a pupil of Oscar Sevik (best known for his torturous violin workbooks), made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 17. with an orchestra.

In 1924, Morini’s father paid $10,000 to purchase a Davidoff Stradivarius violin. The instrument quickly became her favorite playing instrument for the rest of her life. She had Strad in her arms when she died at the age of 91.

Morini didn’t know that the violin she was holding was a Strad replica. Her prized violin, valued at about $4 million at the time, had been stolen from her apartment shortly before her death. With no signs of a break-in, law enforcement concluded that the theft must have been orchestrated by someone close to Morini.

This violin, now called the Davidoff Morini Strad, has yet to be found. To this day, the FBI website describes the theft as an unsolved case.

Indirectly, Morini may have helped the thief. Morini wanted to keep his prized instruments close at hand, rather than in a safe or bank lockbox. As such, it was left in a locked wardrobe that could be opened with a skeleton key, and the location of the instrument was well known among her entourage. , an acquaintance of hers may have been involved in the theft.

No homeowner knowingly helps thieves steal their homes like Morini. But that’s what happened to an Ohio couple recently.

house theft scam tricks

These facts are based on news reports from Added to the scenario to fill in the gaps.

The couple, who I call Mr. and Mrs. Smith, received a letter, presumably from the county accountant’s office. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were worried. I didn’t want to lose my house due to property tax issues.

At one point, Mr. and Mrs. Smith received a letter, also believed to be from the county treasurer. The letter contained revised deeds and other documents that required signatures and notarization. They were confident that once the papers were signed, all matters would be resolved.

Their relief was short-lived. A few weeks later, a man (I’ll call him Sam) knocked on the front door of the Smith family. Mr. and Mrs. Smith closed the door and called the police, and Sam left before they arrived.

Investigation revealed that the papers signed by Mr. and Mrs. Smith were deeds and other documents transferring ownership of the home to Sam’s company. Sam recorded those papers and transferred ownership of his property to his company. So, technically, Sam owned Smith’s house.

Eventually, Smith regained the title to their name. Sam is arrested, convicted of fraud, and in prison.

Other Versions of Home Theft Scams

Smith’s situation was the first I’d heard of this version of the scam. A more common scam involves supposed mortgage refinancing. Similar to what we wrote about in Protecting Yourself Against Mortgage Refinancing Scams, this version of the scam targets people who are behind on their mortgage payments.

These homeowners desperate for mortgage relief quickly believe it when a supposed debt relief company contacts them to offer them a low-cost mortgage refinance. The new mortgage paperwork that is issued includes a deed that the homeowner signs to claim ownership of the home.

In another version of the scam, a debt relief company notifies homeowners that their program requires them to sign title to their home. In this version of the scam, the debt relief company promises to pay the mortgage so the homeowner can keep living in the house.

What actually happens is that the mortgage is not paid off, the house is foreclosed on, and the homeowner has to move. Assets built up by homeowners in their homes are sent to fraudulent debt relief companies during foreclosures. This is because I currently own a home.

A final variation of the home theft scheme does not require the “cooperation” of the homeowner. Instead, scammers forge deeds that transfer ownership to themselves. While this scam may seem like an easy fix, homeowners struggle to prove they didn’t sign deeds and get their government records fixed, causing a lot of headaches. may become.

Protect yourself from homestealing scams

A house-stealing scam does not work without the cooperation of the home owner (either unintentionally or under fraudulent circumstances) by handing over the house to the scammer. Homeowners are therefore the first line of defense against theft.

Homeowners should consider the following before signing legal documents:

check the source

Mr. and Mrs. Smith could have protected themselves by calling the county treasurer when they received a letter about property taxes. As a reminder, homeowners should not call the phone number provided on the letter they received. Instead, you should check her government website (using a search engine, not the letter’s URL) and call the number to verify that the letter is genuine.

Also, property taxes and property titles are typically found in public records, many online. In some cases, the payment status may be made public. Homeowners may be able to check their payment status online. Homeowners who are unsure how to verify this information should consult an attorney for assistance.

Beware of Unsolicited Email, Phone, or Mailed Advertisements

Mortgage refinancing variations of home theft scams often begin with unsolicited emails, phone calls, or targeted mailing advertisements. Scammers may send letters to individuals whose homes are being foreclosed – assuming they are desperate.

Additionally, robocalls and spam emails are cheap to send. Scammers send out thousands and millions of phone calls and emails trying to find people desperate for mortgage relief. At least he gets one suspicious phone call and email a week. I also have more such emails in my spam filter.

do not sign the deed

Deeds usually have the word “deed” somewhere in the title. Some states refer to mortgages as “trust deeds” or “debt bonds,” which can be confusing. However, words such as “Special Warranty Certificate”, “Termination Claim Certificate”, and “Limited Warranty Certificate” appear in proprietary documents.

Don’t just sign a signature page

In commercial real estate transactions where mortgage documents are complex, it is not uncommon for parties to place signature pages in escrow and authorize them to be attached to the final document. This practice is not common in mortgage transactions.

Beware of the exit signature page

Signatures on loan documents are typically on a separate page from the document. However, often the name of the document (such as mortgage) appears in the footer. If the signature page does not specify a document, the page may be attached to another document, such as a deed. The way to prevent this type of fraud is to know who the homeowner is dealing with before signing the paperwork.

pay particular attention to notarized or witness documents

The act must be notarized. Some states also require witnesses. Using a real, notarized signature from the owner makes it easiest for scammers to steal your home.

Of course, scammers do not add fake notary endorsements, fake witnesses, or even fake signatures. However, homeowners should be careful about where their notarized signatures go.

When in doubt, hire a lawyer

Many homeowners do not use lawyers for refinancing or simple home transactions. It is understandable. Lawyers can seem expensive for what appears to be a routine transaction.

But for many people, their home is their biggest asset and their mortgage is their biggest liability. If a homeowner becomes a victim of fraud, dealing with the matter can cost a lot more than if the homeowner had paid a qualified attorney up front.


Erika Morini didn’t know that someone close to her had betrayed her by stealing Strad for her refusal to step up Strad’s security. However, homeowners who are victims of home theft schemes typically learn about the scam and experience the stress, emotional strain, hassle, and cost of paying off their property. Some people lose their homes through foreclosures if they believe they have been doing so.

Homeowners who are vigilant, suspicious of unexpected communications, and careful about what they sign can usually prevent themselves from becoming victims of home theft scams. Unfortunately, there are many homeowners who fall victim to carelessness like the Smiths.

Drawn from Elizabeth Whitman’s classical music background and passion for classical music, the series presents creative solutions to legal problems experienced by businesses and real estate investors.

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