It’s spring time and that normally means homeowners are either searching for their perfect home, or are in the process of purchasing it. But according to Freddie Mac’s Financial Fraud Investigation Unit, it's also a time for home shoppers to fall victim to real estate fraud.
In fact, Joan Ferenczy, vice president in the Freddie Mac fraud department, said in a blog post that, because people write checks and sign complex legal documents, it is so important to know how to protect from mortgage fraud.
1. Mortgage application
First, never sign a mortgage application until you are certain the blanks are filled in correctly. Leaving blanks on a signed document makes it easy for a fraudster to change key information about you (think income and assets) or the amount you are borrowing, the interest rate you agree to pay, or even whether the interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan or will adjust. The best way to protect yourself from a loan you can't afford is to make sure the loan application is complete and accurate before you sign it.
Encourage home shoppers to resist temptation to either exaggerate their income, length of employment or any other information someone says will help their loan approved. It is also important that they be in contact with their loan officer on any life changing events.
2. Meeting in person
Next, meet your loan officer in a secure location, like your home or their place of business. Don't give your mortgage application in, say, a coffee shop or food court where a stranger with a cell phone could take a picture of your bank statement, tax returns, or income statements. This is an important tip for protecting yourself from identify theft.
3. False advertisement
Beware of ads promising to erase bad credit records and/or create new credit identities so people can get new credit cards or mortgage loans and start spending again. That's an appealing pitch to someone eager to buy a home. But rebuilding credit takes time and patience, a good household budget, and paying your bills on time. People who fall prey to credit repair scams lose their upfront fees, don't improve their credit, and sometimes run afoul of the law.
Check out this 60 second video on how homeowners can learn the basics for avoiding mortgage fraud.