Industry News

Trends in mortgage fraud schemes exposed

Debt elimination may be emerging strategy for scam artists

A new analysis of a decade of suspected mortgage fraud cases shows a rise in identity theft and Internet or telephone-based loan approvals to obtain fraudulent loans, and warns that debt elimination schemes may be the new frontier for scam artists as interest rates rise and growth in housing equity slows. The study, by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also found a dramatic increase in the number of suspicious activity reports filed by lenders involving mortgage fraud. But it's not clear whether the numbers reflect an increase in the number of fraudulent loans or an increase in awareness of suspected fraudulent activity. Lenders filed 7,093 reports of suspected mortgage loan fraud in the first quarter of 2006, a 35 percent increase from the same time last year, according to the latest numbers from FinCEN. Since investigators began collecting data on mortgage fraud in suspicious activity reports in 1996, the number of reports involving fraudulent home loa...