by Charlotte Wood
(last updated February 21, 2009)
Today's world is fraught with all different kinds of fraud schemes, all of which could put a significant dent in our lives if encountered. One we don't hear about as often is mortgage fraud. What exactly is mortgage fraud and how do we avoid it? If you follow a few precautionary guidelines in your real estate search then you should be able to detect and ward off most fraud and find (or sell) the home you really want!
Mortgage fraud can occur on both sides of the spectrum, with buyers and sellers. Both parties can deceive and both need to watch out for duplicitous dealers. The big key for both sides is to do your homework and make sure for yourself that who you're dealing with is legitimate. Check references, licenses, public records, anything that can further confirm that you're in a good area of real estate.
Make sure you understand everything in the documents you're asked to sign and never sign anything with information left out. Base much of your business on personal references and networking. If you develop a good, strong network then you should have no qualms in asking around for opinions and street credibility. What your peers say regarding business can sometimes be invaluable.
If you're a buyer, always check out the property before you buy it or sign any documents. Bummer for you if the house you saw on the Internet and paid for actually didn't exist. Work with realtors and appraisers who you trust and never sign anything you're not sure about. Arrange your own loan and check out the history of the property before you sign anything.
You also need to obtain a copy of all the paperwork. Check with the records office to make sure that the seller actually does own the property. You need to research your prospective purchase and make sure for yourself that everything is legitimate. If you don't do this yourself and then get duped, it's your own fault.
If you're a seller, you can avoid mortgage fraud by checking everything in the documents over with an attorney, avoiding those "super easy, no hassle" deals (because seriously, what real mortgage isn't a hassle?) and doing some research on your buyer. Like a buyer, if you do your homework and verify the purchaser then you'll be in good shape and you'll also be able to catch the people who are trying to scam you. You also need to keep a copy of all the paperwork involved. If something goes wrong later on down the road, you need proof besides your word.
Mortgages can be scary because they deal directly with your home, but fortunately there are ways to battle mortgage fraud and give you a stronger leg up. If you keep your eyes and ears open for such things and do your homework then you'll be able to catch most forms of fraud and protect your identity, money, and home.
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