Wednesday, July 08, 2009

FBI: U.S. Mortgage Fraud "Rampant" and "Escalating"

by Bill McBride on 7/08/2009 10:27:00 AM

The FBI released their 2008 Mortgage Fraud Report today. (ht Bob_in_MA)

Mortgage fraud trends in 2008 reflected the overall downturn in the US economy ... the mortgage loan industry reported a spike in foreclosures and defaults; and financial markets continued to contract, diminishing credit to financial institutions, businesses, and homeowners. These combined factors uncovered and fueled a rampant mortgage fraud climate fraught with opportunistic participants desperate to maintain or increase their current standard of living. Industry employees sought to maintain the high standard of living they enjoyed during the boom years of the real estate market and overextended mortgage holders were often desperate to reduce or eliminate their bloated mortgage payments.

Mortgage fraud continues to be an escalating problem in the United States and a contributing factor to the billions of dollars in losses in the mortgage industry.
emphasis added
Committing fraud to "maintain their high standard of living" ... hopefully these guys will enjoy some free state accomodations for a few years.

There is some state specific data and some discussion of some common schemes. Here are a few (there is much more detail in the report):
Builder-Bailout Schemes: Builders are employing builder-bailout schemes to offset losses, and circumvent excessive debt and potential bankruptcy, as home sales suffer from escalating foreclosures, rising inventory, and declining demand. Builder-bailout schemes are common in any distressed real estate market and typically consist of builders offering excessive incentives to buyers, which are not disclosed on the mortgage loan documents. Builder-bailout schemes often occur when a builder or developer experiences difficulty selling their inventory and uses fraudulent means to unload it. In a common scenario, the builder has difficulty selling property and offers an incentive of a mortgage with no down payment. For example, a builder wishes to sell a property for $200,000. He inflates the value of the property to $240,000 and finds a buyer. The lender funds a mortgage loan of $200,000 believing that $40,000 was paid to the builder, thus creating home equity. However, the lender is actually funding 100 percent of the home’s value. The builder acquires $200,000 from the sale of the home, pays off his building costs, forgives the buyer’s $40,000 down payment, and keeps any profits. If the home forecloses, the lender has no equity in the home and must pay foreclosure expenses.

Short-Sale Schemes: Short-sale schemes are desirable to mortgage fraud perpetrators because they do not have to competitively bid on the properties they purchase, as they do for foreclosure sales. Perpetrators also use short sales to recycle properties for future mortgage fraud schemes. Short-sale fraud schemes are difficult to detect since the lender agrees to the transaction, and the incident is not reported to internal bank investigators or the authorities. As such, the extent of short sale fraud nationwide is unknown. A real estate short sale is a type of pre-foreclosure sale in which the lender agrees to sell a property for less than the mortgage owed. In a typical short sale scheme, the perpetrator uses a straw buyer to purchase a home for the purpose of defaulting on the mortgage. The mortgage is secured with fraudulent documentation and information regarding the straw buyer. Payments are not made on the property loan causing the mortgage to default. Prior to the foreclosure sale, the perpetrator offers to purchase the property from the lender in a short-sale agreement. The lender agrees without knowing that the short sale was premeditated. The mortgage owed on the property often equals or exceeds 100 percent of the property’s equity.

Foreclosure Rescue Schemes: Foreclosure rescue schemes are often used in association with advance fee/loan modification program schemes. The perpetrators convince homeowners that they can save their homes from foreclosure through deed transfers and the payment of up-front fees. This “foreclosure rescue” often involves a manipulated deed process that results in the preparation of forged deeds. In extreme instances, perpetrators may sell the home or secure a second loan without the homeowners’ knowledge, stripping the property’s equity for personal enrichment.

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