Several years ago, a prominent Myrtle Beach real estate lawyer called me to suggest that our (title insurance) company should develop a product like Home Title Lock. That company advertises that it alerts homeowners if fraudulent or forged deeds are recorded in their chains of title. I contacted corporate leaders to explore this idea, and it was quickly decided that the product was virtually meaningless.
Last week, another prominent Myrtle Beach-area lawyer emailed me with news that the Attorney General for Texas is investigating the company. Here the South Carolina dirt lawyer’s direct quote, “After the number of older clients I have had who come into a transaction confused and scared by the talking heads on conservative media who have been schilling for this company, I am glad to see law enforcement taking an interest.”
Ken Paxton, the Attorney General, apparently agrees. He issued a press release on January 24, stating, “I won’t tolerate false, misleading, or deceptive advertisements targeted to any Texas consumers—especially Texas seniors. If Home Title Lock is misrepresenting its services or the need for its services I will put a stop to its unlawful behavior.”
The AG announced an investigation of this company for potentially violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by misleading consumers with deceptive statements concerning the prevalence of home title theft and the need for this company’s services.
The press release states that Home Title Lock is a California-based entity that claims to provide 24/7 monitoring of a consumer’s home title. (How could that even be done?) The press release states that the company has received scrutiny in recent months over questionable advertisements, including its claim that the FBI calls home title theft “one of the fastest growing white-collar cyber-crimes in America.” Apparently, Home Title Lock admits that it markets to “older customers.”
The Texas AG’s office issued a Civil Investigative Demand on December 15 ordering the company to make documents available substantiating the following, among other matters:
- Any home title theft resolution services;
- Representative samples of customer contracts;
- The claim that the Company monitors the title of consumers 24/7;
- The claim that the Company provides nationwide monitoring;
- The claim that like other white-collar crimes, title fraud remains under reported with losses totaling more than $5 million in 2015;”
- The claim that a victim is responsible for payments incurred due to a fraudulent home equity loan. (“Now thieves take out massive loans using your home’s equity-leaving you with the payments and mountains of legal bills;”) and
- The claim that the company offers “complete protection – including up to $250,000 in legal fees and expense coverage.”
I’m so glad to see this investigation is starting, and I hope other states follow.