It has been seven years since the FBI targeted mortgage fraud as one of the nation’s leading problems of crime. California and several other states have created a Mortgage Fraud Task Force and yet according to several news sources, the instances of mortgage fraud are on the rise. “How can this be?”, after all the money, time and resources the government has spent on tracking, analyzing, and prosecuting mortgage fraud, “How is it possible that crooks don’t just stop trying?!”. Of course, I am being a bit sarcastic. I believe the real problem has yet to be unearthed. This type of white-collar theft takes a very long time to detect. Unlike the passé bank robberies of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, thieves are no longer required to just use tommy guns and wheel-men. With a good acrobat adobe and a lack of a moral center, people are able to abscond literally millions of dollars, and if they are smart, they leave the country to someplace without extradition.
The problem is not as simple as finding better appraisers, or educating loan officers or mortgage underwriters, or having a risk analyst look at the loan prior to funding. Although all of these steps are good ones, the resources should be set in place to enable a potential lender to check a loan file through a federal database that is driven through the analytic machine of FNMA, the FBI and the IRS. These three leaders in fraud detection and prosecution have the data for the majority of the players and schemes that are being perpetrated. If there was a central base of intelligence for mortgage fraud and all loan profiles were run through this system, much like a background check, then looking at the major players, routing numbers for transfer etc., the fraudsters would have to work a lot harder to steal “the banks” money.
This of course is just the personal ranting of a tired real estate appraiser/fraud investigator. But I continue to live in the hope that sense, like courtesy, will some day become common once again.
See you around the water cooler!