Combating Financial Fraud by Educating Homeowners

Combating Financial Fraud by Educating Homeowners

The following post appears courtesy of the U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner, Co-Chair of the Mortgage Fraud Working Group of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 27, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — Combating financial fraud is one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder. Two and a half years ago, President Obama created the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency coalition of federal and state officials, chaired by Attorney General Holder, to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force has enhanced enforcement and prevention efforts involving many types of financial fraud.

The task force includes the Mortgage Fraud Working Group, whose leaders and members have been working tirelessly to bring prosecutions and civil enforcement actions in both federal and state courts around the country. In fact, the Justice Department has seen a 92 percent increase in mortgage fraud prosecutions across the nation since fiscal year 2009. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, alone, the department indicted more than 2,100 individuals for mortgage-fraud related crimes.

Today, the Mortgage Fraud Working Group is sponsoring summits in California and Nevada, two states that have consistently ranked among the highest in mortgage fraud cases. U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. (California) and U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden (Nevada) will host the events. A summit was also scheduled in Tallahassee, Florida, but has been postponed due to severe weather in the area.

The summits will help prevent homeowners from becoming victims by educating them about how to identify, avoid and report these criminal schemes. They bring together federal and state law enforcement and regulatory officials to share information about the latest trends in mortgage fraud scams that target homeowners, discuss effective investigative strategies and learn more about how to coordinate enforcement efforts across agency and jurisdictional lines for maximum impact.

The summits also include representatives of NeighborWorks America, or of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which are partners in a nationwide consumer protection initiative called the Loan Modification Scam Alert Campaign.

It has become clear that the criminal schemes used to perpetuate mortgage fraud change as conditions in the housing market evolve. Five years ago, when mortgage lenders were eager to make loans, loan origination schemes aimed at defrauding lenders were widespread. More recently, with the dramatic increase in foreclosures rates in many parts of the country, there has been an increase of schemes targeting desperate homeowners, including foreclosure rescue fraud schemes and loan modification scams.

Accordingly, the leaders and members of the Mortgage Fraud Working Group of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force have increasingly focused on the prevention, detection, and prosecution of such schemes. Today’s summits will give a boost to prevention and enforcement efforts in two areas of the country where homeowners are vulnerable to mortgage fraud scams. But there is much more to be done.

The Mortgage Fraud Working Group, working through the U.S. Attorneys, the state Attorneys General, and the District Attorneys in various states, will continue to marshal the resources of the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to effectively combat mortgage fraud in all its forms.

For information about the Financial Fraud Task Force information about how to detect and report various financial fraud schemes including mortgage fraud scams, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

Homeowners behind on their mortgage and seeking assistance are encouraged to call the Department of Housing and Urban Development toll-free, 888-995-HOPE (4673) for free, comprehensive foreclosure assistance and housing counseling services.

For more information from NeighborWorks America visit www.loanscamalert.org. Homeowners can find help or report a scam by calling the NeighborWorks hotline at (888) 995-4673.

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