This is the second in a two part series about mortgage fraud, how it occurs, the damage it causes and what you can do to protect yourself. Read on for more information on how you can stop mortgage fraud through identity theft and what to do if you have been a victim.
It is important to fight mortgage fraud, particularly those involving identity theft schemes for several reasons. First, the effect of mortgage fraud is far reaching to an individual. With mortgage fraud, consumers may lose their property, their savings, and their credit rating. Second, lenders are affected by the loss of money, security, and assets in their company, not to mention the lack of trust resulting from mortgage fraud occurrences.
All incidences of mortgage fraud, no matter what type or method used, are now investigated by the Financial Institution Fraud Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). It was determined by several federal agencies that it was more effective and efficient to pursue crimes involving mortgage fraud in one single cohesive government organization, instead of several across the United States. The hope was that this would lead to earlier detection, stiffer penalties and the ability to track and penalize reoccurring offenders who may commit the crime in one place and then move to another.
What can consumers do to protect their credit? It is critical to monitor your credit report, receive regular updates, and stay informed. Immediately contact any lenders that provide information on your credit report when you discover pieces of information that are mistakes of fact or that you don’t know or recognize. Read your social security benefits statement when it comes in the mail. It can provide you with important information, such as informing you if someone is using your social security number and obtaining benefits in your name. This can be used as a red flag to alert you to leaks in your credit information. Be careful of mailings, telephone calls, email messages or overly friendly realtors who may approach you personally going door to door. These can be bogus attempts to gain both personal and financial information to allow a theft to happen. Be suspicious if you receive information to the “new homeowner” such as welcome coupons or service calls to your home. This can mean that your information has been at risk. Assist your parents, if elderly or if necessary in protecting their identity and financial information.
Carefully monitor your computer and internet activity with an effective form of anti virus and spyware software. Spyware systems are hard to detect, sometimes even harder to get rid of, and can provide the unscrupulous with a great deal of information, both of a personal, financial, or credit nature.
What should you do if you have been a victim of mortgage fraud of any variety? First, report it to the The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)(202) 324-3000 – National FBI Financial Institution Fraud Unit.
The important thing is to stop identity theft before it happens. But if it happens to you, you need to be prepared to begin the long journey of repairing your credit information. It will take time, but it is important to take the necessary measures as soon as suspicious activity is detected.