Southern California is on track to see twice as many reports of potential mortgage fraud cases in 2006 as last year, according to a Los Angeles Times report based on FBI figures.

Lenders filed 4,228 suspicious-activity reports in the first 11 months of the fiscal year ending Saturday, the Times said. The FBI figures show a seven-county region from Orange County to San Luis Obispo County has seen suspicious loan activity quadruple since 2003.

The number of reports may underestimate the problem, since banks are required to file suspicious-activity reports with the FBI, but independent mortgage brokers are not. Banks account for fewer than half of all mortgage loans, the story noted.

The FBI is focused on counterterrorism and investigates only a small percentage of mortgage fraud cases, the Times reported.

Southern California has more suspicious-activity reports than any other region, surpassing the Atlanta, Chicago and Miami areas, the story said, but the FBI is opening fewer investigations there compared to other urban areas. The Southern California region last year ranked seventh in the nation for the number of mortgage fraud cases opened; it was ranked second in 2004.

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