Be aware of mortgage fraud on senior homeowners

Mortgage fraud threats on the rise for elderly homeowners, FBI report says

(White Plains, NY) – Westchester County Consumer Protection and Seniors’ Programs and Services (DSPS) have joined forces to educate elderly homeowners who are victims of mortgage fraud. According to the Federal Bureau of Private Sector Investigation, criminal actors use forgery, identity theft and online activities to target elderly homeowners and conceal illegal activities from their victims, lenders and law enforcement agencies. ‘order.

According to a recent report, the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), in coordination with the FBI’s Private Sector Office (OPS), concluded that there is a growing threat of mortgage fraud targeting the equity of the elderly. In response, the two county departments are working together to mount an information campaign to stop mortgage fraud cases in Westchester.

Westchester County Director George Latimer said: “Unfortunately, the elderly are the most frequent targets of fraudulent scams. Our elderly neighbors can be lonely, willing to listen, and are generally more confident, making them more vulnerable to scammers. We hope this information will encourage our senior population to be on high alert, especially during the holiday season. “

Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection Director Jim Maisano said, “The Consumer Protection Department is committed to educating the public about the latest scams every day. Mortgage fraud is a particularly egregious scam that often targets the elderly. Our best advice is to always avoid unsolicited communications with our phones, texts, emails, mail or even someone knocking on the door. Don’t trust ANYONE who contacts you about your mortgage if you are not 100% sure who it is. If you believe you have been contacted by someone involved in mortgage fraud, call law enforcement immediately. If you have any questions about possible scams, call our office at 914-995-2155.

DSPS Commissioner Mae Carpenter said: “We want to make sure that our seniors are informed of all possible threats to their good quality of life and the property they have worked so hard for.”

The victims are generally owners without privilege or judgment and who are less likely to monitor their financial accounts. These perpetrators also search county records to identify victims and property. Owned but unoccupied homes are also targets.

The illegal scheme is usually implemented in one of two scenarios;

  • The perpetrator mortgages the victim’s property on behalf of the victim, sells the property to unsuspecting buyers and retains the proceeds, or:
  • Transfers ownership to an entity the criminal actor, in which the perpetrator controls (i.e. a limited liability company), then mortgages the property.

In either case, a cash mortgage is secured, which increases the risk of foreclosure or losses for financial institutions. Reports from mortgage lenders indicate that in order to qualify for these loans, the criminal actor employs people to respond to lender verification requests and hire complicit lawyers to serve as settlement agents when closing the loans.

Unfortunately, elderly owners may not discover the fraud until long after the deed has been transferred to the owner’s name and the product has been diverted.

Homeowners usually discover the fraud when they receive:

  • A notice of departure from the county sheriff;
  • A foreclosure notice;
  • Notice from the tax office when the owner tries to pay the property taxes.

Lenders may not discover the fraud unless they have exercised due diligence beyond what is required by their underwriting guidelines. It’s also important to note that many fraudulent cash mortgages meet all of the underwriting requirements, making it all the more difficult to identify wrongdoing.

Education is the best medicine to help seniors avoid mortgage fraud. Consumer Protection and DSPS suggest the following to prevent this type of theft:

  • Monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity
  • Regularly inspect a property’s chain of title
  • Do not respond to unsolicited advertisements
  • Do not share personally identifiable information with unknown lawyers
  • Be careful when giving out your social security number
  • Don’t sign anything you don’t fully understand
  • Do not answer phone calls from unknown callers and
  • Do not share your personally identifiable information

You can find out more or report a fraud to any of the following: FBI Private Sector Coordinator at a local FBI office at https; //www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices: The FBI Internet Crime Complaints Center at www.ic3.gov; the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development at www.hudoig.gov/hotline-form; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint or by calling 855-411-CFPB.

Additional resources are available through the US Department of Justice Elder Fraud Initiative at www.justice.gov/elderjustice/financial-exploitation

You can also contact the Consumer Protection and Seniors Programs and Services departments for advice. For the Department of Consumer Protection, please call (914) 995-2155 or the Department of Senior Programs and Services at (914) 813-6300.

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