According to the FBI, property and mortgage fraud is the fastest growing white collar crime in the United States. By definition, mortgage fraud schemes employ some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission relating to a real estate transaction which is relied on by one or more parties to the transaction. Such schemes can include:
- Foreclosure rescue schemes
- Loan modification schemes
- Illegal property flipping
- Builder bailout/condo conversion
- Equity skimming (a type of foreclosure rescue scheme that often targets low-income homeowners)
- Silent second (a secondary loan on a property that is not disclosed to the lender of the original loan)
- Home equity conversion mortgage
- Commercial real estate loans
- Air loans (a scheme involving a fictitious property and borrower)
The FBI reports that in 2007 there were 46,717 mortgage fraud suspicious activity reports (SARs). By 2011, that number had risen to 93, 508, and it’s still continuing to rise.
Tarrant County has not been immune to the property and mortgage fraud epidemic. In 2010, a then 62-year-old man named Norris Fisher was arrested and indicted on one count of mail fraud after using the mail to steal more than 100 properties from their rightful owners. Fisher’s M.O. was to locate a properties he wanted, file a forged warranty deeds with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office transferring the property to a fictitious owner, forge the signature of the property’s true owner, and forge the signature and notary stamp on the documents. Through this scheme, Fisher managed to fraudulently acquire more than $1 million in property.
Fortunately, the Tarrant County Clerk’s office has taken steps to protect you from becoming the victim of property and mortgage fraud. Through their free Property Fraud Alert service, you can sign up to have your name monitored to track possible fraudulent activity. Signing up take just a few moments, and you’ll be notified when the exact name you provide is listed as either the Grantor or Grantee on more than 90 different types of documents recorded in the County Clerk’s office. You can choose to receive these alerts by phone or e-mail.
While Tarrant County’s Property Fraud Alert service can’t prevent fraud from happening, it will allow you to take action as soon as possible.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of mortgage fraud, contact the real estate attorneys at The Farah Law Firm today. Let our experienced team of lawyers fight for your rights and restore your peace of mind.