The Interthinx (FAF) National Mortgage Fraud Risk Index rose 3% in the fourth quarter of 2014, rising to a reading of 101.

The index stands unchanged from one year ago.

Interthinx reports that while the National Mortgage Fraud Risk Index is up, mortgage fraud risk has become more geographically dispersed, demonstrating how mortgage fraud perpetrators prey on economic and market opportunities.

Although for the past several years areas with concentrations of distressed properties and borrowers—California and Florida, for example—have presented a wealth of opportunity, risk in the Northeast remains high and is increasing in parts of New York.

Mortgage fraud risk is also rising in MSAs in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and the Dakotas—trends that warrant monitoring due to the volatility presented in energy dependent regions.

“Clearly, mortgage fraud is a crime of economic opportunism, the nature of which serves to remind our industry that state, MSA and ZIP code trends can be more directly linked to cause and effect than the national trends,” said Jeff Moyer, president of Interthinx.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Florida is the riskiest state this quarter, with an Index of 130. Property Valuation and Occupancy Fraud Risk are the main drivers of Florida’s overall risk index.
  • The Identity Fraud Risk Index is up 15% from last quarter due to a higher frequency of alerts identifying issues with a borrower’s SSN trace.
  • The Property Valuation Fraud Risk Index is 120, down 2% from Q3 2014 and up 19% from Q4 2013, with the slight decrease due to a decline in the frequency of alerts identifying specific valuation issues.
  • The Occupancy Fraud Risk Index is 131, down 2% from last quarter, and down 6% from Q4 2013, a change attributed to decreases in the frequencies of loans involving possible straw-buyers, and a decreased rate of owner-occupied loans where the borrower has multiple active loan applications on file.
  • The Employment/Income Fraud Risk Index is 61, while down 20% from one year ago, the 3% increase from last quarter is due to higher rates of alerts identifying notable variances in borrower reported income on loan applications.
  • An eight-quarter analysis shows purchase transactions are riskier than refinance transactions, primarily because of higher risk in the Occupancy and Property Valuation Fraud Risk indices.