Real Property Fraud

The information below pertains only to real property as opposed to personal property. As a property owner, you should be diligent in regard to your property and finances. What follows is important information provided by the FB

Wire Fraud:

All parties to a real estate transaction are potential targets of wire fraud and may lose hundreds of thousands of dollars because they simply relied on the wire instructions received via email, without further verification. If funds are to be wired in conjunction with this real estate transaction, it is strongly recommended that verbal verification of wire instructions, through a known trusted phone number made prior to sending funds.

  • Never relyon emails purporting to change wire instructions. Parties to a transaction rarely change wire instructions in the course of a transaction.
  • Always Verify wire instructions, specifically the routing number and account number, by calling the party who sent the instructions to you. Do not use the phone number provided in the email containing the instructions, use phone numbers you have called before or can otherwise verify. Obtain the phone number of relevant parties to the transaction as soon as an escrow account is opened. Do not send an email to verify as the email address may be incorrect or the email may be intercepted by the fraudster.
  • Use complex email passwordsthat employ a combination of mixed case, numbers, and symbols. Make your passwords greater than eight (8) characters. Also, change your password often and do NOT reuse the same password for other online accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authenticationfor email accounts. Your email provider, or IT staff, may have specific instructions on how to implement this feature.

Mortgage fraud:
This is a type of Financial institution fraud and is 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.

There are two distinct areas of mortgage fraud. 


Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners.

Fraud for housing:  This type of fraud is typically represented by illegal actions taken by a borrower motivated to acquire or maintain ownership of a house. The borrower may, for example, misrepresent income and asset information on a loan application or entice an appraiser to manipulate a property’s appraised value.

Common Examples of mortgage fraud.

  • Title Transfer: The most dangerous scheme is the “bailout” that never quite works. This scenario includes various schemes in which the homeowner surrenders title to the house in the belief that within the deal, they’ll be able to remain in the home as a renter, and eventually buy it back. Homeowners are sometimes told that surrendering title is necessary so that someone with a better credit rating can secure new financing to prevent the loss of the home. But the terms of these deals are almost invariably so onerous that the buyback becomes impossible, the homeowner loses possession permanently, and the “rescuers” end up with all or most of the home’s equity, often evicting the original homeowner. Another scam convinces the homeowner to transfer title to a “federal land grant” with the false promise that this prevents the lender from foreclosing.
  • Foreclosure rescue schemes: The perpetrators identify homeowners who are in foreclosure or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage loan and then mislead them into believing they can save their homes by transferring the deed or putting the property in the name of an investor. The perpetrators profit by selling the property to an investor or straw borrower, creating equity using a fraudulent appraisal, and stealing the seller proceeds or fees paid by the homeowners. The homeowners are sometimes told they can pay rent for at least a year and repurchase the property once their credit has been reestablished. However, the perpetrators fail to make the mortgage payments and usually the property goes into foreclosure.
  • Loan modification schemes: Similar to foreclosure rescue scams, these schemes involve perpetrators purporting to assist homeowners who are delinquent in their mortgage payments and are on the verge of losing their home by offering to renegotiate the terms of the homeowners’ loan with the lender. The scammers, however, demand large fees up front and often negotiate unfavorable terms for the clients, or do not negotiate at all. Usually, the homeowners ultimately lose their homes.
  • Equity skimming: An investor may use a straw buyer, false income documents, and false credit reports to obtain a mortgage loan in the straw buyer’s name. Subsequent to closing, the straw buyer signs the property over to the investor in a quit claim deed, which relinquishes all rights to the property and provides no guaranty to title. The investor does not make any mortgage payments and rents the property until foreclosure takes place several months later.
  • Silent second: The buyer of a property borrows the down payment from the seller through the issuance of a non-disclosed second mortgage. The primary lender believes the borrower has invested his own money in the down payment, when in fact, it is borrowed. The second mortgage may not be recorded to further conceal its status from the primary lender.
  • Home equity conversion mortgage (HECM): A HECM is a reverse mortgage loan product insured by the Federal Housing Administration to borrowers who are 62 years or older, own their own property (or have a small mortgage balance), occupy the property as their primary residence, and participate in HECM counseling. It provides homeowners access to equity in their homes, usually in a lump sum payment. Perpetrators taking advantage of the HECM program recruit seniors through local churches, investment seminars, and television, radio, billboard, and mailer advertisements. The scammers then obtain a HECM in the name of the recruited homeowner to convert equity in the homes into cash. The scammers keep the cash and pay a fee to the senior citizen or take the full amount unbeknownst to the senior citizen. No loan payment or repayment is required until the borrower no longer uses the house as a primary residence. In the scheme, the appraisals on the home are vastly inflated and the lender does not detect the fraud until the homeowner dies and the true value of the property is discovered.
  • Commercial real estate loans: Owners of distressed commercial real estate (or those acting on their behalf) obtain financing by manipulating the property’s appraised value. Bogus leases may be created to exaggerate the building’s profitability, thus inflating the value as determined using the ‘income method’ for property valuation. Fraudulent appraisals trick lenders into extending loans to the owner. As cash flows are lower than stated, the borrower struggles to maintain the property and repairs are neglected. By the time the commercial loans are in default, the lender is often left with dilapidated or difficult-to-rent commercial property. Many of the methods of committing mortgage fraud that are found in residential real estate are also present in commercial loan fraud.

Warning Signs for Real Estate Fraud:
Anyone can be vulnerable to real estate fraud and identity theft, however, the elderly and economically challenged traditionally have been targeted. Below are some common warning signs of real estate fraud:

  • You receive official documents indicating a transfer of your property and you have no knowledge of the transaction;
  • You did not receive a property tax bill. This can be the first sign of fraud; and
  • You receive mortgage documents or payment books for loans for which you never applied.

Please see our other related articles

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Church Officer and Director Liability
The Harm in Renting Out the Church Parsonage
Why Use Bushore Real Estate

Disclaimer: Every situation is different and particular facts may vary thereby changing or altering a possible course of action or conclusion. The information contained herein is intended to be general in nature as laws vary between federal, state, counties, and municipalities and therefore may not apply to any given matter. This information is not intended to be legal advice or relied upon as a legal opinion, course of action, accounting, tax or other professional service. You should consult the proper legal or professional advisor knowledgeable in the area that pertains to your particular situation.

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