Feds See a Decline in Mortgage Fraud for the 1st Time


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By Christine DeGangi

Reports of mortgage fraud declined in 2012, the first decrease in such reports since the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network started tracking them in 2002. FinCEN received 69,277 Mortgage Loan Fraud Suspicious Activity Reports, or MLF SARs, in 2012, 25 percent fewer than the record 92,561 in 2011.

In its report, FinCEN associates the decrease with an unusual spike in MLF SARs filed in 2011, which resulted from an influx of mortgage repurchase demands. Nearly 80 percent of MLF SARs filed in 2011 included repurchase requests -- only 14 percent of MLF SARs included repurchase requests in 2010. After mortgages that originated during the housing bubble defaulted, mortgage security holders could request the lender to repurchase the loan, once the security holder could provide evidence of fraud.

Most MLF SARs reference suspicious activity believed to have occurred during loan origination in the final years of the housing bubble: 57 percent of 2012 SARs involved mortgages originating in or before 2007. In 2011, 58 percent originated in or prior to 2007.

When it comes to individual states, California remained on top with the most MLF SARs in total and per capita. It held the same spot in 2011. In MLF SARs volume per capita, California was followed by Nevada, Florida, Arizona and the District of Columbia.

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