by Robert Siciliano

Mortgage Fraud and Identity Theft: Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

May 31, 2010

You don’t need to own a house to become a victim of mortgage fraud. Heck, you don’t 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. Lexis-Nexis Mortgage Asset Research Institute in Chicago shows that the incidence of fraud in 2009 increased 7 percentage points over 2008’s levels. In 2008, fraud reports rose 26 percentage points from the previous year. The institute collects and provides data – suspicious-activities reports, or SARS – 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. Law 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. Some 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. Data from the U.S. Treasury Department’s 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, which went on to say the FBI’s financial crimes section has seen an 800 percent increase in its case load since 2003. The apparent spike in mortgage fraud reveals one more line of attack that thieves exploit to hijack the financial identities of consumers. The 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). The 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’ de facto role as universal identifiers has fueled a massive increase in financial fraud—simply because these numbers allow criminals to assume others’ 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’s finances. They must implement measures that render those Social Security numbers useless to thieves. Invest 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) Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing the Social Security numbers on Fox News.