Avoiding Mortgage Fraud
Because of increasing number of mortgage fraud cases springing up across the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigations ( the FBI) and other law enforcement agencies have begun working closely with banks and mortgage companies, as well as national associations such as the MBA, the Appraisal Institute, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, National and State Boards of Realtors, and the National Notary Association to determine the causes of, and to put an end to mortgage fraud.
The FBI, along with other federal, state, and local policing agencies, has established several recommendations that help consumers protect themselves from loan fraud while purchasing real estate:
- First, and foremost, if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is. If someone promises you a hefty profit in a short period of time, take it as a potential scam. In such cases, seek another opinion and pay attention to what is being offered. It may be a legitimate opportunity, but it's always prudent to be careful.
- When you apply for a loan, regardless to what type, you should understand what you are agreeing to before signing loan documents and escrow instructions.
- You should know and understand the terms of your loan by making sure the information in the mortgage documents are complete and accurate. Read and reread them, and then read them again!
- You should never sign any document that has blank spaces because it is easy for someone to type in additional information later, which leaves you vulnerable to fraud and possible identity theft.
- Don't let strangers talk you into signing agreements while using high pressure sales tactics. If you don't know a realtor, loan officer, or others in the real estate or loan businesses, ask for referrals from friends and family members.
- Always check the license numbers of brokers, escrow companies, and lenders by contacting state and local regulatory agencies.
- Make doubly sure that your name is spelled correctly and that it matches the name on the documents.
- When buying property, check with a title company to determine if it has been sold numerous times in a short time period. This may indicate that there has been illegal activity and that the value of the property could be overly inflated.
- Look at recent comparable sales in the neighborhood and tax assessment documents to help verify the value of the property.
- Remember, sometimes your friends, and even family members, will try to sell you a property, while knowing all the time that it is overpriced, after realizing that they paid to much for it themselves. As stated above, beware of any deal that sounds to good to be true, because in many cases, they are.
Although federal agencies are trying to keep mortgage fraud under control, there are several steps that you, the consumer, can take to protect yourself from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous mortgage brokers, real estate agents, and others who are out to make a profit by undermining your rights to fair lending practices.