The state of Texas is investigating the marketing claims of Home Title Lock, a California-based anti-fraud service that has been promoted by Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and other right-wing personalities. The investigation seeks to determine whether the company has misled consumers through its ads and promotional materials. For nearly $20 a month or $199 a year, Home Title Lock promises to monitor a homeowner’s title “24/7” and help stop title theft, a crime where a con artist uses fraudulent documents to claim ownership of someone else’s home and swindle lenders or sell the property.
The company claims to help victims reclaim their homes if needed, including covering legal fees, and markets itself to people over 45, who are “essentially conservative,” according to a spokesperson. However, several claims made by the company have been challenged, including the scope of the crime known as “home title theft.” In its advertising materials on TV, radio, and online, Home Title Lock has at times described title theft as a threat “exploding across America.” But, the FBI says it couldn’t find any evidence that the agency ever described home title theft that way, and the FBI reports that Home Title Lock cites to support its claims don’t offer any statistics specific to home title theft.
In June 2021, ABC News published an in-depth investigation into Home Title Lock and its advertising practices, raising questions about several claims made by the company. Since ABC News published its findings, Home Title Lock has made changes to some of its marketing materials, now claiming on its website that FBI reports show “real estate fraud” — not home title theft specifically — “is one of the fastest growing cybercrimes in America.”
The Texas attorney general’s office announced its investigation, noting that Home Title Lock was “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 Home Title Lock’s services.” In December 2021, Paxton’s office issued a “civil investigative demand” to Home Title Lock, ordering it to hand over 27 categories of documents.
However, a spokesperson for Home Title Lock defended the company’s claims, pointing to a dramatic increase in the amount of money real estate fraud victims lose each year. While it is true that home title theft is a real crime with potentially devastating consequences, many local governments offer free title-notification services or are taking other measures to help protect homeowners. But Paxton’s office is investigating whether Home Title Lock’s ads may be overstating the occurrence of the crime.
As the investigation continues, consumers should be wary of claims made by companies like Home Title Lock that promise a complete solution to a complex problem. Instead of relying on these companies, consumers should seek advice from their real estate agents or local government officials to learn about the free services available to help protect them from title theft.
With Home Title Lock under investigation, it raises questions about the legitimacy of other products promoted by right-wing personalities like Rudy Giuliani. Consumers need to be vigilant and take responsibility for their financial and real estate security. Don’t let the flashy promises of scam artists and con men fool you.