Toronto police seek public's help after house sold without owners' consent
Toronto police are seeking the public's help in what the service is calling a complex mortgage fraud investigation.
In a news release on Thursday, police say Toronto homeowners left Canada for work in January of 2022 and learned, months later, that their property had been sold out from under them without their knowledge.
According to police, a man and a woman used fake identification to pose as the homeowners. They then hired a realtor who listed the house for sale.
Police say the house was sold and new homeowners took possession.
Now, investigators are asking the public to help identify two suspects, whose pictures are below.
A Toronto police spokesperson declined to provide additional information about the case when CBC Toronto followed up.
The spokesperson said the force can't provide any advice on how the public can protect themselves from a fraud of this nature, but said this is not the victims' fault.
Paul Baron, president of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, said in a statement that a real estate brokerage has an obligation to perform due diligence when taking on clients, as required under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, or the Trust in Real Estate Services Act.
"By law, registrants who trade in real estate are required to use their best efforts to prevent error, misrepresentation, fraud or any unethical practice in respect of a trade in real estate," he said.
"We are mindful of the fact that those who trade in real estate can also fall victim to fraud, as it appears to be in this case of individuals impersonating homeowners, which then becomes a matter for law enforcement or the police."
Baron said existing homeowners can protect themselves through title insurance, while real estate brokerages can use the land registry service to verify the owner of a property. He said TRREB has a member alert service where it posts fraud alerts when informed by its members.
According to the Real Estate Council of Ontario, the case appears to be one of identity theft rather than mortgage fraud.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-7310. Information can also be provided anonymously via Crime Stoppers.