Mortgage Fraud Highest In Florida, Followed By California And Illinois

3 12 2008

“…Florida, crowned fraud king in both 2006 and 2007, topped the second quarter ranking with 21 percent of loans reported to contain false information. California ranked second with 15 percent, and Illinois ranked third with 12 percent…”

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/796411.html 

Despite more stringent underwriting of mortgages in the wake of record foreclosures, lenders continued to battle the problem of home loan fraud during the second quarter of theyear, with Florida borrowers again submitting more questionable loan applications than borrowers in any state in the nation, according to an industry report released Tuesday.

Reports of suspected mortgage fraud rose 45 percent nationally between April and June compared to the same three-month period a year earlier, according to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute, a mortgage-fraud data clearinghouse. Fraud reports were up 3 percent from the previous quarter.

Florida, crowned fraud king in both 2006 and 2007, topped the second quarter ranking with 21 percent of loans reported to contain false information. California ranked second with 15 percent, and Illinois ranked third with 12 percent.

Within Florida, the Miami metropolitan area was the biggest fraud hot spot. The most widespread abuses involved beefing up applicants’ financial profiles, including inflating income and assets and gussying up their employment status. Fabricated bank statements were also a problem, the report noted.

The Tampa Bay area ranked second in Florida, where the most common fraud involved inflated appraisals.

MARI analyzes reports submitted from participating lenders to derive its statistics. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates mortgage fraud has cost lenders more than $1 billion, losses in part due to shoddy review policies during the boom.

Glenn Theobald, chairman of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force, said mortgage fraud reports continued to stream full force into Miami-Dade County’s police department. Since the formation of the task force in October 2007, Theobald said the department had received 2,000 complaints. It has 700 active investigations.

High property values relative to local incomes are still tempting brokers and borrowers to fudge the numbers in order to qualify for loans, Theobald said. Desperate owners facing foreclosure are also looking for ways to game the system through appraisal fraud and other means in order to refinance or sell.

Heightened awareness of fraud on the part of consumers and lenders has also contributed to the increase.

Despite the recent implementation of a new Florida law stiffening penalties for mortgage fraud, Theobald said he expected reports to rise in the next year as lenders more closely vet loan applications to participate in federal refinancing programs tied to the bailout.

 

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