The biggest concentration of mortgage fraud is on the East Coast, though two southwestern states are also hot spots.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network reported that since April 1996 through the end of 2005, SARS filed by depository institutions indicating mortgage fraud as the suspicious activity totaled 75,700 -- of which more than half were filed in the last two years.
Last year alone, mortgage-related SARS amounted to 25,931, FinCEN spokesman Steve Hudak said. The number is a reported 41 percent higher than in 2004 and 172 percent more than those filed in 2003.
The most common type of fraudulent mortgage loan activity reported was falsification of the loan application, which was described in 52 percent of the sampled narratives. The second most common, with 21 percent, was identity theft/fraud, followed by 14 percent for misrepresentation of loan purpose or misuse of loan proceeds, 10 percent for appraisal fraud and the rest consisted of fraudulent flipping and fraud involving multiple loans, according to FinCEN's SARs trends and activities report.
With 8,345 filings, finance-related occupations, including accountants, mortgage brokers and lenders, were the most commonly reported suspect occupation associated with mortgage fraud, followed by business-related occupations' 3,455 filings, FinCEN reported.
SARs indicated that the largest concentration of mortgage fraud is in the entire eastern region of the country. However, other "hot spots" include Arizona and Texas, the network added.
Over 58 percent of the mortgage loan fraud reports had home prices that fell into the range between $100,001 and $500,000, the report said.
Technology, such as the Internet, is one of the contributors to the proliferation of mortgage SARs, FinCEN said, adding that while it eases loan application submission, it allows "criminals to commit fraud while their identities remain shielded."
The increased use of third-party brokers is a vulnerability, as this has created opportunities for organized fraud groups, according to the report.
FinCEN said "the lack of standard regulations and educational or experience criteria for mortgage loan brokers appears to contribute, in part, to the growth of mortgage loan fraud."