- Two people are wanted for mortgage fraud after allegedly using fake identification to impersonate the homeowners of a Toronto property and hiring a real estate agent to sell the home without the homeowners’ knowledge.
- The home was then sold to new owners before the real homeowners discovered the fraud several months later.
- Toronto police are seeking information on the male and female suspects.
A police investigation is underway after the owners of a Toronto home returned from a business trip to find their home had been sold without their knowledge.
Investigators allege that in January 2022, a man and woman used fake identification to impersonate the homeowners and hired a real estate agent while they were out of the country for business.
The home was then listed for sale and sold to new owners who took possession of the property, according to police.
Several months after the sale, the real homeowners discovered their property had been sold without their consent.
The alleged fraudsters are now wanted for mortgage fraud.
James Cook is a partner at Gardiner Roberts and is experienced in real estate and professional liability litigation.
While Cook says he can’t comment on this specific incident, he has worked on mortgage fraud cases.
“Mortgage fraud is not a new thing,” Cook says. “But this is probably a rare enough case where you’ve actually got a property involved. I think it’s becoming more common because there’s a lot of money, particularly in Toronto.”
While the listing agent involved in this fraudulent transaction may not have known the IDs used were fake, a realtor is responsible for taking steps to verify the identity of their client.
Longtime Toronto realtor Barry Lebow suggests agents work with lawyers who are thorough and cautious, and avoid working with those who focus on volume, as that may impede their ability to do due diligence.
Lebow also encourages realtors to get back to basics and, in addition to looking at the age and photo on an ID, compare the date of birth to the year of purchase.
Another piece of advice from Cook: “Look out for properties that are tenanted, ones that aren’t ordinarily occupied by the owners.”
The litigator adds that a lot of money can be involved in this type of mortgage fraud, and those with nefarious intentions may pull out all the stops to deceive the professionals involved.
“If criminals are going to go through the exercise of getting authentic looking, phony identification and impersonate somebody, it’s hard to say what anybody can do in those situations to stop it.”
Police have released photos of the two suspects. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Toronto Police Service Financial Crimes Unit.