You don\u2019t need to own a house to become a victim of mortgage fraud. Heck, you don\u2019t even need to be older than 3 to be a victim. As long as the thief has a Social Security number, they can apply for loans in your name.\n\nLexis-Nexis Mortgage Asset Research Institute in Chicago shows that the incidence of fraud in 2009 increased 7 percentage points over 2008\u2019s levels. In 2008, fraud reports rose 26 percentage points from the previous year. The institute collects and provides data \u2013 suspicious-activities reports, or SARS \u2013 to subscribers, including mortgage lenders. If you want to compare numbers, there were 67,190 such reports collected in 2009, compared with 63,713 in 2008, and 46,717 in 2007. The 2009 increase was small, but officials say they believe a lot of scam artists are going high-tech.\n\nLaw enforcement activities surrounding mortgage fraud across the U.S. have resulted in the arrest of thousands, according to reports. The utility of Social Security numbers as a means to obtain credit fuels the pervasiveness of mortgage fraud.\n\nSome of the most devastating instances of mortgage fraud involve identity theft. Consumers not only have to be leery of questionable mortgage lenders, but also of others who might buy a home in their name.\n\nData from the U.S. Treasury Department\u2019s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has revealed that instances of suspected mortgage fraud have risen by 1,000 percent over the past six to seven years, reported the article in thisisyourmoney.co.uk, which went on to say the FBI\u2019s financial crimes section has seen an 800 percent increase in its case load since 2003.\n\nThe apparent spike in mortgage fraud reveals one more line of attack that thieves exploit to hijack the financial identities of consumers.\n\nThe results of a research investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently revealed an apparent, significant upward trend in the incidence of mortgage fraud. Furthermore, homeowners who have Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) are prime targets for financial fraud, suggested a related statement from the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC).\n\nThe best way to combat the threat is to transform Social Security numbers into something useless to thieves, who use these universal identifiers to obtain financial identities. Social Security numbers\u2019 de facto role as universal identifiers has fueled a massive increase in financial fraud\u2014simply because these numbers allow criminals to assume others\u2019 identities. Given the scope of financial fraud, which costs billions of dollars every year, consumers need a way to deprive thieves of the ability to gain access to someone else\u2019s finances. They must implement measures that render those Social Security numbers useless to thieves.\n\nInvest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)\nRobert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing the Social Security numbers on Fox News.