Monday, June 21, 2010

Report on Loan Modification and Financial Rescue Scams

Source: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network


June 17, 2010
CONTACT: Steve Hudak,

FinCEN Analysis: Foreclosure Rescue Scam Reports Increase
Nature of Foreclosure Rescue Scams Shifts

VIENNA, Va. – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today released its first analysis of suspicious activity reports (SARs) containing information about potential foreclosure rescue scams. The report, Loan Modification and Foreclosure Rescue Scams – Evolving Trends and Patterns in Bank Secrecy Act Reporting , involved an analysis of more than 3,500 SARs filed from 2004 through 2009, of which the great majority, 3,000, were filed last year. Additionally, FinCEN today also provided updated guidance to the financial industry concerning new scam techniques that financial professionals should watch for and report.

“The increase in reporting of suspected foreclosure rescue scam activity could mean that there is an increase in fraudulent activity but it also reflects an increase in awareness among financial institutions of the fraud perpetrated,” said FinCEN Director James H. Freis, Jr. “This report emphasizes the importance of including the specific term ‘foreclosure rescue scam’ in the SAR narrative to enable law enforcement to search for and identify fraudulent activity more easily when reviewing SAR information, which assists in focusing investigative resources and ultimately reducing these scams.”

In addition to the increase in reported activity, the analysis shows that the nature of foreclosure rescue scams had shifted during the period examined in the study. Early SARs containing information about loan modification/foreclosure rescue scams identified subjects purporting to be loan modification or foreclosure rescue specialists. These subjects targeted financially troubled homeowners with promises of assistance. The scams involved the homeowners signing quit claim deeds, and resulted in loss of equity in or title to their property. The scammers used straw borrowers, who misrepresented income, employment, or occupancy, or provided other fraudulent information to deceive a new lender into making a new mortgage loan.

The scams described in later SARs and analyzed in this report, reflect an evolution into advance fee schemes, in which purported loan modification or foreclosure rescue specialists promised to arrange modification of a homeowner’s mortgage for more favorable repayment terms. Following receipt of large advance fees, scammers rarely, if ever, provided any service. A variation of the advance fee scam involved phony debt elimination programs in which the homeowners paid advance fees and were given bogus documents, or were instructed to contact their lenders with specious assertions that the original mortgage debt was illegal.

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