The Expert Blog
Jason D Koontz, CRC Opinions for All
Mortgage fraud covers a wide variety of fraudulent, deceptive, and illegal practices through which individuals obtain housing or make money off the mortgage loan process. Although the concept is more often associated with borrowers or consumers who attempt to obtain mortgage loans fraudulently, lenders and other professionals in the mortgage process also often play significant roles in perpetrating this fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (hereinafter referred to as the FBI) defines mortgage fraud as "a sub-category of Financial Institution Fraud. It is a crime characterized by some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission in relation to a mortgage loan which is then relied upon by a lender. A lie that influences a bank's decision—about whether, for example, to approve a loan, accept a reduced payoff amount, or agree to certain repayment terms—is mortgage fraud."
Mortgage fraud is considered a serious problem in the US, partly due to the devastating effects it can have on not just the innocent homeowners and lenders involved but also on the economy. For instance, the global financial crisis of 2008 was fueled in part by the unscrupulous activities of borrowers who obtained loans on massively inflated real estate and lenders who intentionally or recklessly gave loans to people who were unable to repay.
As a result, government agencies at both the federal and state level take a serious stance towards mortgage fraud. Individuals who are apprehended may be subject to misdemeanor or felony prosecution. Also, mortgage fraud can result in civil and criminal action against professionals and lending entities who initiate or help perpetuate this fraud. In all cases, the services of a mortgage banking expert are often required to help clarify the obligations of lenders and borrowers in specific cases and determine if misconduct has occurred.
Understanding mortgage fraud and how it occurs
The FBI has identified two distinct areas of mortgage fraud. It may either occur in relation to fraud for housing or fraud for profit.
While fraud for housing is more often associated with homeowners, it may be committed by either borrowers, lenders, or other professionals in the mortgage industry. With fraud for housing, the goal is to provide false or inaccurate information or omit relevant details to obtain or maintain real estate ownership. For instance, a borrower may omit important details relating to their income level, on their own or with the assistance of a loan originator, to qualify for a housing loan.
Fraud for profit is more targeted towards illegally "gaming" the mortgage process in order to make illicit and fraudulent financial gains. It is often committed by professionals in the mortgage industry who employ fraud and deception to enjoy illegal profits on a loan transaction. However, just like a fraud for housing, the fraud here can also be committed by borrowers and, sometimes, in conjunction with industry professionals.
Mortgage fraud by borrowers
Fraud by homeowners can be committed in various ways, both aimed at obtaining housing or profit in fraudulent ways. These include the following:
Fraud by lenders is often considered even more serious than fraud by borrowers. As a result, the FBI pays special attention to scams of this nature. Some of the common types of fraud by lenders include:
The dangers of mortgage fraud and how it occurs signifies the ongoing threat that scams of this nature pose to innocent homeowners and lenders, as well as the economy at large. Combating this fraud will require even closer scrutiny from regulatory and law enforcement agencies and the input of professionals such as mortgage banking experts.
Victims of mortgage fraud may seek redress through the courts. Mortgage fraud cases often utilize an expert witness. A mortgage lending expert witness can be retained to conduct an investigation and offer opinions as to whether or not the alleged conduct was improper.
Jason D Koontz
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