Homeowner Identity Theft and Fraud

Homeowners may be far more vulnerable than renters to identity theft and fraud for a wide range of reasons. Just to buy a home in the first place, potential home buyers generally need to do some significant work on their credit. If they continue to make payments over time, their credit just keeps climbing higher. The higher your credit score is, the more favorable you are to creditors and that alone can make you a prime target for identity theft. In addition, homeowners tend to stay in one place far longer than renters, which also creates more opportunities for a broader range of personal information to make its way onto the dark web. Once there, it can be compiled with other morsels of information gleaned about you through the years via a number of different cybercriminal activities. 

In addition to homeowners being more vulnerable to identity theft, just owning a home alone makes homeowners more susceptible to other types of fraud. Unlike homeowner identity theft, where someone steals a homeowner's identity to use for their own fraudulent or criminal activities, homeowner fraud is a direct attempt to deceive or exploit homeowners for financial gain. 


One of the very best ways for homeowners to protect themselves from identity theft is to check their credit report regularly. Some credit cards will even offer free credit monitoring services that will alert you any time there is a change to your credit report. This even includes notifications any time someone attempts to apply for credit. Because of the prevalence of credit monitoring services, however, a new type of identity theft is on the rise. Account takeover (ATO) generally occurs when a cyber criminal obtains a user's login credentials. 

Phishing scams continue to be one of the most pre-eminent way of obtaining login credentials but it is not the only way. In spite of all of the dire warnings internet security companies have been issuing for years, all too many users continue to use user names and passwords that are pathetically easy for cybercriminals to simply guess. In fact, every year SplashData releases a list of the top 100 passwords culled from stolen data found on the dark web. Every year, for more than a decade now, "password" and "123456" have continued to top the list

Another type of identity theft is when a cybercriminal simply uses the information from an existing credit card account to make fraudulent purchases. Sometimes, they may obtain credit card information through a process known as "skimming," which is where they collect the information from the magnetic strip on the back of your credit card with a card reader. They will often will place an additional dummy reader on a public terminal such as an ATM or gas station or a waiter or other service personnel will use a portable card reader to skim your information when they are running your credit card for other purposes. 

Once they have your credit card information, they can sell it on the dark web, make a counterfeit credit card and use it to make purchases or even use it to buy digital gift cards online, which they can then either use to buy things or turn around and sell for cash. Sometimes cybercriminals will use credit card information to set up a small, recurring payment to themselves. In many cases, these payments will be for $50 or less and will often go unnoticed by the account holder for months. 

How to protect yourself 

  • Sign up for a credit monitoring service

  • Check your credit report regularly for any accounts you did not sign up for or any inquiries that you did not initiate

  • Always check your credit card and bank statements carefully and check transactions daily if possible. The sooner you spot any unauthorized charges, the less hassle it will be to get things sorted out

  • Sign up for identity theft protection on your homeowner's insurance. For just a few dollars a month, many policies will cover you for up to $10,000 or more in expenses related to identity theft. 

  • Always check web addresses carefully before downloading any attachments. Targeted phishing scams are on the rise, where phishers will send you a personal email that appears to be from a trusted source such as a coworker or personal friend. 

  • Never login to any of your accounts by following a link provided in an email. If you get an email from a company or source you do business with that claims there are any problems with your account, always use your web browser to go directly to their site and login only when you have determined you are on a legitimate site. 


Any time you own any type of property, you are at a higher risk of being the victim of fraud. More often than not, fraud perpetrated against homeowners is almost invariably some kind of attempt to get an insurance payout. In some cases, fraudsters may even attempt to include the homeowner in the scam by advising them to make claims for damages that were never actually incurred or submit bills that they know are inflated. 

Another type of fraud involves service providers attempting to scare you into purchasing services you don't really need, but more often than not the ultimate target is your insurance company. Insurance fraud not related to health insurance is estimated to cost more than $40 billion per year, which generally sends insurance premiums soaring. It is estimated that the average U.S. family spends between $400 and $700 per year in the form of increased premiums due to insurance fraud. 

How to protect yourself

  • Always get several estimates for any work that needs to be performed on your home

  • Always make sure that any workers or contractors are licensed and bonded

  • Always ask for detailed invoices for any work performed

  • Call your insurance agent if you even suspect anything might be fishy or amiss

  • If anyone claims to have been injured on your property, thoroughly document the scene where they claim the injury occurred by taking numerous photos or videos

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