Feds: Mortgage fraud increased in 2011

VIENNA, Va. – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) – a task force created by President Obama that includes 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and others – released its full 2011 update of mortgage loan fraud.

According to FinCEN, banks and lenders submitted 92,028 “mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports” last year, a 31 percent increase over the 70,472 submitted in 2010.

Florida ranked third in states for mortgage fraud per capita; California and Hawaii took the top two spots. On a county-by-county analysis, California took four of the top five spots. Only South Florida’s Broward County made the list, coming in at No. 4.

While the number of suspicious activity reports has risen, FinCEN suggests that an increase in fraud reports may not equal an increase in fraud – lenders might just be getting better at spotting potential problems.

“The FinCEN report shows we’re seeing financial institutions spotting activity that appears to be fraud before it happens and, in the process, helping to prevent it,” says FinCEN Director James H. Freis, Jr.

Many reports also relate to problems that occurred earlier. In 2011, for example, 84 percent of the fraud events occurred more than two years prior to filing compared to 77 percent in 2010.