This begins a two part series on what is mortgage fraud; how it occurs and what can be done about it: such as how to protect yourself and what to do if you are a victim of identity theft and mortgage fraud.
Imagine coming home after your vacation to find another family moving in your home and your possessions stacked in the garage. Imagine filling out an application for a credit card or a new car purchase to find out that you have an existing equity line of credit you never applied for.
These instances are becoming more and more common as identity theft professionals find even more unique and destructive ways of not only obtaining your identity but also of ruining your credit and taking over your home, through a variety of mortgage fraud schemes. Identity theft is not limited to credit cards and small credit loans, but the rising real estate market and fast cash for turning houses over for resale have provided these unscrupulous individuals with a chance to make a large sum of money with very little effort.
Because of the lack of qualified statistics, the actual number of mortgage fraud schemes in the United States as a result of identity theft is unknown. However, what is known is that identity theft is one of the most common mortgage fraud schemes. In 2004, the FTC reports that there were $429 million dollars stolen in fraud involving mortgages and approximately $1.1 million dollars lost in fraud involving commercial loans. The highest incidents of this type of fraud in 2004 occurred in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
This type of fraud occurs when an identity is stolen and it is used most commonly on a loan application for either the purchase of a new home or a second/home equity loan line of credit. With specific personal knowledge, such as a person’s date of birth and social security number as well as address, additional credit information is easily obtained and used for illicit purposes. Other forms of mortgage rackets occur when individuals falsify their credit information, such as income, in order to obtain a loan; inflate property value in order to garner additional money from the sale or the line of credit; or use predatory lenders who have several available hoaxes available to them. Among these predatory lender schemes are offers to assist people with low income or bad credit to repair their credit, offers to assist in the purchase of a home through a land contract, and offers to assist people in avoiding foreclosure. Not all offers are schemes; however, many of them are. Consumers need to be aware.
Quite possibly the most horrific mortgage fraud involving identity theft is the sale of your property without your knowledge. In most of these causes, two thieves are involved. The first obtains your personal and credit information and “sells” the property to an accomplice. The mortgage money is split between the two thieves and they disappear. In these instances, although your credit information is still in danger, you are not responsible for the new mortgage, and it is the lender that is at risk and damaged.
The consumer may get off “easy” but certainly not without damage. After the identity theft has occurred it may take years to correct the problem, hours of lost work time and thousands of dollars in expenses, according to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute. Additionally, consumers that have been victims must find additional means to keep their credit safe from harm in the future.
Experts claim that senior citizens are the people most likely targeted for any type of mortgage fraud scheme for two reasons. In many cases, older, more established homeowners are more likely to have more equity in their homes and they may not take enough measures to protect themselves from identity theft. Regardless of age, these plans require just two things: your personal information and knowledge of the equity in your home. You can try to control how easily accessible your personal and financial information is; however, equity information is, unfortunately, very easily available through a simple title search and tracking of property values and sales in the area.
What can you do to fight mortgage fraud? And how do you report it? There are two very important reasons to fight identity theft and over 18 different agencies and organizations available to assist you with reporting and repairing damage caused as result. Read about these in the next article on IdentityTheftSecrets.com.