The internet has made stealing someone’s identity much easier than in previous decades. Thieves might use the information they find about their targets online to make their own Oregon identification cards in their names. They may apply for credit cards, purchase expensive items like cars and take out personal loans. Some identity thieves are even stealing people’s homes through deed theft.

What is deed theft?

Of all the things identity thieves do, this is one you probably never considered. However, with enough information about you, a thief could transfer the deed to your property and then sell it, take out a mortgage on it or rent it to someone else if it is vacant.

What can you do to prevent deed theft?

Recovering from deed theft could be very expensive and time-consuming. By safeguarding your personal information, you may be able to prevent all identity theft. Be careful of who you give your personal information to online. A legitimate financial institution or utility company will not send you an email asking you to provide your Social Security number, for example. They already have that information.

When it comes to your secondary residence, pay attention to changes in your utility bills. If your secondary home is vacant and you receive an unusually large electric bill, that could be a sign that someone is using your home without your knowledge. Also, open mail you receive from the tax assessor right away and report anything suspicious. Contact your county assessor if you don’t receive a tax bill you’re expecting. That could be a sign that something has changed on your tax account.

It’s not clear how many people are victims of deed theft because the FBI doesn’t list that crime separately. What is known is that identity theft is the first step to deed theft. Protect your identity and check your credit report regularly to avoid becoming a victim. If you find anything suspicious, an attorney may be able to help you assert your legal rights.